New Zealand Law Society - Six new coronial appointments announced

Six new coronial appointments announced

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Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall has welcomed six further coronial appointments.

The new appointments are to four full-time and two relief coroner positions

“After farewelling four long-serving coroners last month, I’m pleased to welcome our new appointments to the Coroners Court. They bring a wealth of experience to these roles and I look forward to working with them,” says Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall.

“With Coroners Bates and Llewell moving to full-time roles, Janet Anderson-Bidois and Louella Dunn will now take on the relief coroner positions in Auckland and Hamilton respectively. I look forward to them joining our team in the coming weeks.”

In March, Coroners Gordon Matenga and Brandt Shortland started their new appointments as District Court judges. Coroners Tim Scott and Wallace Bain also finished their warrants on reaching retirement.

The four full-time appointments includes a replacement for Coroner Carla na Nagara who was appointed Director of the Suicide Prevention Office in October 2019. The outstanding vacant full-time coroner position in Whangarei is currently being advertised.

The relief coroner appointments announced last month were funded in Budget 2019 and included funding for the support staff needed to fulfil the role. The relief coroners’ focus is on providing support as duty coroners and help to reduce the backlog of cases. Currently, along with managing their individual caseloads, full-time coroners share the role of Duty Coroner – a rotating responsibility that involves being on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, dealing with sudden deaths around the country.

“More and more cases are being referred to the coroner each year, with the coroner taking jurisdiction of more cases than ever before in the 2018/19 financial year. It’s hoped in giving our fulltime coroners more time to conclude the active cases before them, we will be able to give closure to grieving families and whanau sooner,” Judge Marshall says.

The new appointments

Coronial appointments are made by the Governor-General on the advice of the Attorney-General, given after consultation with the Minister of Justice. Under the Coroner’s Act 2006, every coroner vacates that office, if he or she has not earlier done so in another way, on attaining the age of 70 years.

Donna Llewell – Full time coroner, Rotorua

Donna Llewell was recently selected for one of the eight relief coroner positions. Prior to this, Ms Llewell was a senior solicitor at Te Papa Atawhai, Department of Conservation. She has previously been in-house Legal Counsel for the Bay of Plenty Regional Counsel since 2016, a Crown Counsel with the Crown Law Office, Legal Advisor to the Autonomous Bougainville Authority and Senior Associate with Chen Palmer. She is a competent speaker of Te Reo Māori and her iwi is Ngā Puhi.

Matthew Bates – Full time coroner, Hamilton

Before Matthew Bates was appointed as one of the eight relief coroners, he had been acting as a relief coroner since September 2019 in the Hamilton region to cover for extended leave. Prior to this, Mr Bates was a member of the Public Defence Service in Tauranga. He practiced as a barrister sole from 2002 to 2016 where he was a District Inspector for Mental Health and a District Inspector for Intellectual Disability.

Bruce Hesketh – Full time coroner, Rotorua

Mr Hesketh has been practising law for 25 years following service as a police officer. He is a partner at Adams Hesketh, a specialist litigation practice. He has served three terms as President of the Waikato Bay of Plenty Law Society and has been a manager at the Public Defence Service. He has previously taught at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies.

Robin Kay – Full time coroner, Palmerston North

Mr Kay has experience of coronial matters from his work in both the health and legal sectors. He is a senior member of the litigation and dispute resolution team of White Fox and Jones. His main areas of practice are civil and commercial litigation, and he has particular experience resolving insurance disputes. He is also a registered mental health nurse and clinical manager.

Janet Anderson-Bidois – Relief Coroner, Auckland

Ms Anderson-Bidois is the Chief Legal Adviser at the Human Rights Commission. She leads a team that is responsible for reporting to United Nations committees and monitors New Zealand’s compliance with international human rights treaties. Prior to this she spent 14 years as a senior medico-legal adviser at Waitemata and Counties Manukau District Health Boards.

Louella Dunn – Relief Coroner, Hamilton

Ms Dunn is the Acting Crown Solicitor at the Hamilton Crown Solicitor’s Office. From 1997 to 2018 she was a partner in Almao Douch. Ms Dunn is a highly experienced trial lawyer and has prior experience with coronial hearings.

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