Prominent QC loses battle with cancer

by Hannah Norton10 Jun 2015
Sir Peter Williams QC has died after a lengthy battle with cancer.

The prominent criminal defence lawyer died at his Ponsonby home at around 6.30pm last night, surrounded by family and friends.

His legal career spanned 60 years and included involvement in more than 100 murder trials, as well as representation in high profile cases such as that of Arthur Allen Thomas and Mr Asia Terry Clark.

He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1987.

A former head of the Howard League for Penal Reform and hailed as a lifelong champion for prisoners’ rights, Williams battled prostate cancer for the past eight years.

Williams’ wife Heeni Phillips-Williams told the New Zealand Herald it would be difficult to come to terms with his death.

"I've got lots of wonderful memories and he's just an amazing man."

Williams exemplified many of the qualities which people who needed a lawyer looked for, New Zealand Law Society president Chris Moore said today.

“One of his books is called 
A Passion for Justice and this is a fitting description of his life and long career as one of New Zealand’s leading Queens’ Counsel.

“Sir Peter was an exceptional advocate. He had the ability to put the defence case for his clients with powerful oratory. His passion shone through in everything he did and said.

“Sir Peter’s motivation, his ability to communicate on the issues in our justice system and the results he achieved mean we have lost a great lawyer. The New Zealand Law Society extends its condolences to Lady Heeni and his family.”

In April, Williams was knighted prior to public investitures due to concerns for his rapidly declining health.

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.”

He is also an author, penning novels including last year’s bestseller The Dwarf Who Moved.



  • by Karen Harding 12/06/2015 1:29:26 p.m.

    sadly we have had another death this week, last night; lawyer Jacqueline McClew of Auckland passed away last night from cancer.