Dis­trict and fam­ily courts’ fresh face

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By NICCI McDOUGALL

Queen­stown’s new cir­cuit judge is proud to be the first fe­male judge ap­pointed in In­ver­cargill. Af­ter more than a 20-year ca­reer as a lawyer in Whangarei Judge Christina Cook was sworn in as a dis­trict court judge with a fam­ily court war­rant and will sit in In­ver­cargill. She will also be a cir­cuit judge to Queen­stown. She was proud to be the first woman judge ap­pointed in the city. ‘‘I’m hum­bled by that.’’ The mother of two was born in north Lon­don and moved to Switzer­land be­fore mov­ing to New Zealand at the age of four. She re­turned over­seas and spent sev­eral years in Port Moresby in Pa­pau New Guinea where she ex­pe­ri­enced a city that did not have a sys­tem with law. She watched daily what that lack of ac­cess to jus­tice meant. Vi­o­lence was a fea­ture of day-to­day life, she said, as she ex­plained reg­u­larly wit­ness­ing a man beat­ing up his wife with any ob­ject ly­ing around, and get­ting caught up in a fight and tear gassed on the street. In New Zealand, there was the ben­e­fit of a struc­tured sys­tem with good ac­cess to jus­tice, she said. Judge Cook was a lawyer at a Whangarei firm called Thom­son Wil­son and be­came a part­ner be­fore form­ing her own com­pany, called Cook-Westenra. Be­com­ing a judge was some­thing she had only thought about in the past cou­ple of years af­ter de­cid­ing she needed a change and a chal­lenge. She had con­tem­plated leav­ing work and go­ing back to study but the op­por­tu­nity to be­come a judge arose and she thought she would try and take it. And she was glad she did – al­though it took a lot of ad­just­ing. She had al­ways en­joyed English and de­bat­ing at school and deal­ing with peo­ple. Law was an op­tion pro­vid­ing all of the things she en­joyed. Her aim as a judge was to do a good job in both crim­i­nal and fam­ily court and to pro­vide con­sis­tent, ap­pro­pri­ate sen­tenc­ing and re­sults, and to man­age both as ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble. The high­lights of the job so far were be­ing able to make pos­i­tive de­ci­sions and con­struc­tive res­o­lu­tions of mat­ters par­tic­u­larly in fam­ily court. And the plea­sure of deal­ing with South­land lawyers. ‘‘It’s a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity be­cause you’ve got peo­ple’s lives af­fected by the de­ci­sions that you make, so you need to make those de­ci­sions us­ing ut­most care and at­ten­tion to de­tail.’’ Out­side work Judge Cook en­joys sport and had been en­joy­ing the at­trac­tions the city had to of­fer such as the velo­drome, Queens park, River­ton and Bluff. She had pur­chased a moun­tain bike and was en­joy­ing the tracks at Sandy Point. And while she was look­ing for­ward to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing more of the south, the tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­ence would ‘‘take a bit of get­ting used to,’’ she said.

nicci.mcdougall@stl.co.nz

Photo: JOHN HAWKINS/FAIR­FAX NZ 628759819

A first : Judge Christina Cook.

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