Auckland barrister wins international human rights award

by Sophie Schroder05 Dec 2014
Auckland barrister Anita Killeen has been named as the recipient of a New York City Commission on Human Rights Emerging Woman Leader Award.

Killeen was in attendance as a speaker at the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) annual conference in Dubai, when she was unexpectedly presented with the award by the New York City Commissioner of Human Rights Patricia Gatling.

The award recognises the barrister’s work in establishing the Pro Bono Panel of Prosecutors for the SPCA Auckland.

In July, NZ Lawyer reported that an impressive 14 of the country’s finest litigators had been appointed to the pro-bono panel, which was established by Killeen in 2009.

Since the panel began, the dedication and legal expertise of those who have got on board has had a significant impact on the treatment of animal cruelty in New Zealand.
Each panel member conducts prosecution cases in court at no charge for the SPCA.

Not only has the initiative 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 Honourable Simon Bridges to reform the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

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

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.

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.
And this latest New York City Commission on Human Rights Emerging Woman Leader Award is evidence that the huge success of the Pro Bono Panel of Prosecutors has now been noted on an international level as well.

“While it was exciting and a real honour for me personally to receive the award, the award itself really recognises the significant contribution of the members of the Pro Bono Panel and their generosity in working for free over the last six years and making the initiative such a success for the SPCA and for the animals of New Zealand,” says Killeen.

The IAP’s annual conference, where the barrister was in attendance when she received the award, saw about 500 attorney-generals and public prosecutors from 156 countries come together.

The IAP aims to promote greater international cooperation between lawyers and prosecutors and for more speed and efficiency in mutual assistance, asset tracking, and other cross-border issues.

This year, Killeen says the conference included more than one surprise highlight for her: As well as being presented with the Emerging Woman Leader Award, she also got to go on a safari in the Arabian Desert, and stayed in the same hotel as some home-grown stars.

“By chance the New Zealand Cricket Team were staying in the conference hotel, so I was lucky enough to meet some of the team and wish them well for their test match in Dubai,” she smiles.

Now that she’s back in New Zealand, the barrister sole at Quay Chamber and former Chief Prosecutor at the Serious Fraud Office will continue her fight to improve animal rights.

“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.”


  • by Tony Falkenstein 6/12/2014 7:02:08 a.m.

    Well done Anita - great honour for you and the colleagues you brought on board - well done!