‘One of this country’s legal champions’ speaks at AKL Writers Festival

by Hannah Norton13 May 2015
One of New Zealand’s most prominent criminal lawyers will speak at the Auckland Writers Festival this week, despite ill health.

Sir Peter Williams QC will discuss his best-selling novel, The Dwarf Who Moved, released last year, as part of the festival on Friday.

“We’ve invited Peter because of his memoir, which I think really tells the story of one of this country’s legal champions,” festival director Anne O’Brien told NZLawyer.

“He’s been a signature figure in many legal cases over many years, he’s been a lifelong advocate for penal reform, and this is a chance to celebrate that with him. We are delighted that he is available to join us.”

He is set to discuss some of the people and cases that have defined his 60 year career as a criminal lawyer, including “Mr Asia” Terry Clark and Arthur Allan Thomas.

Last month Williams was knighted prior to public investitures due to concerns for his health.

Eight years ago he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, with his health beginning to decline rapidly this year.

Speaking to NZLawyer at the time of Williams’ investiture, Auckland barrister and secretary for the New Zealand Criminal Bar Association Roger Chambers spoke fondly of Williams, who he has known since the mid-to-late 1960s.

“We had done, in those early days, some trials together. He was always hugely focused on the task at hand. He would be one of the most well-prepared lawyers that I – in nearly 50 years of practice – have come across,” Chambers said.

“Very, very concerned that he represented his clients – of which there were many and varied – to the best of his ability.”

A former head of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Williams was appointed Queens Counsel in 1987.