District and family courts’ fresh face
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.
A first : Judge Christina Cook.