14 of NZ’s finest litigators join the fight against animal cruelty

by Sophie Schroder25 Jul 2014
A staggering 14 of the finest litigators in the country have just been appointed to the pro-bono panel of prosecutors for the SPCA Auckland to help fight the high instance of abuse against animals in New Zealand.

Auckland barrister Anita Killeen established the panel for the SPCA Auckland in 2009 after being appointed as director of the board.

She was made acutely aware of the need for such a concept one Christmas, the year before.

Killeen’s journey started as a financial member of the SPCA, during a time when she and her husband had a tradition of visiting the SPCA village in Mangere each Christmas to make a donation.

On one particular visit, she commented that given part of the business of the SPCA was law enforcement and prosecution - and she was working as a prosecutor - maybe she could make more of a contribution.

“So in the New Year I researched the organisation. I met with Board members, the CEO and the Chairman. I learned when a vacancy on the board was coming up. I identified gaps in their business plan that I believed I could fill,” she tells NZ Lawyer. “I was invited to make a presentation to the board on what I could contribute as a director, and as part of that I made a proposal to take charge of developing and implementing a strategic initiative that I believed would save the organisation money and further the strategic goals of the organisation.”

At the time, Killeen was working as the Chief Prosecutor at the Serious Fraud Office, and responsible for instructing and liaising with the then 22 members of the external Serious Fraud Office Prosecution Panel, which consisted of the leading Queen's Counsel, Crown Solicitors and barristers throughout the country.

After being appointed as director to the SPCA board, the barrister promptly got to work on her initiative - the pro-bono panel of prosecutors for the SPCA - and the vast array of her existing contacts helped her secure the support of a staggering 23 legal experts all willing to give their time for free.

“In my opinion, some of the personal qualities that define the senior members of our legal profession in addition to legal skill include empathy, compassion, a commitment to public service and helping those in need,” Killeen says. “It is therefore of no surprise to me to find the most senior members of our profession offering their time and expertise to help the most vulnerable in our community and to furthering the vision and mission of the Auckland SPCA.”

With the appointment of 14 more of the nation’s greatest legal minds this year, the number of panel members has almost doubled and the current total sits at an impressive 32.

Killeen says that while the concept of compiling a number of lawyers to serve on a legal panel frequently occurs in New Zealand in several different contexts, it is unique that this is a pro-bono panel where everyone volunteers their time and expertise for free.
And indeed the dedication and legal expertise of those involved has certainly had significant impacts on the treatment of animal cruelty in New Zealand.

Not only has the panel ensured that animal welfare prosecutions have been presented to the court in the most effective manner, but it has also been instrumental in working towards harsher penalties against animal cruelty.

In 2009, the panel combined its efforts with the Honorable Simon Bridges to reform the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

A Private Members Bill to amend the act was then initiated by Bridges in 2010.

“I worked together with Mr. John Billington QC from the panel and we drafted and filed submissions and appeared in front of Parliamentary Select Committee Hearings calling for, in particular, an increase in maximum sentences in animal welfare cases,” Killeen says.

And then in July that year, the amendment to the Animal Welfare Act was passed into law by unanimous vote, increasing the maximum sentence for wilful ill-treatment of an animal from three to five years’ imprisonment, and doubling the maximum fine to $100,000 for an individual and $500,000 for a company.

Penalties were also increased for a range of other neglect and ill-treatment offences, and the Act expanded the law relating to forfeiture of animals and disqualification from owning them. The amendment to the Animal Welfare Act also created a new offence of reckless ill-treatment.

Killeen says new appointments to the pro-bono panel of prosecutors for the SPCA are critical in ensuring that it can continue to have significant impacts in society and that each animal cruelty case is able to be brought to the court.

The dedicated barrister currently practices at Quay Chambers in Auckland, specialising in financial crime and fraud, civil and criminal litigation, and governance and decision-making.

In 2012, Killeen’s contribution to the SPCA and animals in New Zealand was recognised and she was awarded the Queen’s Diamond SPCA volunteer medal by the Governor-General.

"The successful implementation of a strategic initiative never occurs as the result of one person’s actions. One person may come up with a great idea, but in my view an initiative will only be a success, and remain a success, when teams of people work together effectively,” she says.

See the list of the latest appointments to the pro-bono panel of prosecutors below:
  1. Ms Deb Bell, Barrister, Jervois Chambers, Auckland
  2. Mr Steve Bonnar QC, Queen’s Counsel, 22 Lorne Barristers, Auckland
  3. Ms Tiffany Cooper, Barrister, Sentinel Chambers, Auckland
  4. Mr Marc Corlett, Barrister, Shortland Chambers, Auckland
  5. Mr Paul Dacre QC, Queen’s Counsel, Auckland
  6. Mr Peter Davey, Barrister, Kitchener Chambers, Auckland
  7. Ms Christine Gordon QC, Queen’s Counsel, Meredith Connell, Auckland (Acting Crown Solicitor)
  8. Mr Stephen Hunter, Partner, Gilbert Walker, Auckland
  9. Mr Gareth Kayes, Partner, Kayes Fletcher Walker Ltd, Auckland
  10. Ms Raewyn McCausland, Barrister, Jervois Chambers, Auckland
  11. Mr Simon Mount, Barrister, Bankside Chambers
  12. Mr John Upton QC, Queen’s Counsel, Capital Chambers, Wellington
  13. Ms Natalie Walker, Partner, Kayes Fletcher Walker Ltd, Auckland
  14. Mr David Williams QC, Queen’s Counsel, Bankside Chambers