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Complaints Against Justice Wilson Dismissed

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Oct 22 NZPA - Complaints against Justice Bill Wilson will be dismissed after the beleaguered judge stepped down from the Supreme Court bench yesterday, ending a conflict of interest scandal that shocked the legal community.

Justice Wilson will take with him a $410,000 year's salary and other leave entitlements. The Government will pay his legal costs of $475,000.

Judicial conduct commissioner Sir David Gascoigne today announced he would dismiss the three complaints against the judge on November 5, when his resignation takes effect.

It was alleged Justice Wilson failed to properly disclose a business relationship with Alan Galbraith QC on a Court of Appeal case on which he was sitting and Mr Galbraith was representing a party. It was alleged Mr Wilson owed Mr Galbraith $242,804. Justice Wilson has consistently denied the allegation.

The complaints led to Sir David recommending the establishment of a judicial conduct panel to investigate the allegations.

Justice Wilson successfully challenged that decision in the High Court, which sent the matter back to the commissioner and directed him to address errors of law.

Sir David said today he had completed the draft of a second decision, which he had intended to seek submissions on from Justice Wilson and the complainants.

That would no longer take place as "there is no useful point to be served by my proceeding with that course", Sir David said.

The law governing judicial panels states that the commissioner must dismiss complaints if the respondent is no longer a judge.

Under the terms of a settlement Justice Wilson will now get a year's salary of $410,000, which is taxable.

The Government will pay his legal costs of $475,000, while he will get existing entitlements, including untaken sabbatical leave and retiring leave. That amount has yet to be calculated.

Acting Attorney-General Judith Collins said yesterday she accepted his resignation because the legal process involved in the case could have taken another 12 to 18 months, with "massive costs" to the taxpayer.

Ms Collins said Justice Wilson had not been accused of a crime. "He has, however, been accused of a lapse in judgment and a sustained lapse in judgment."

The resignation resolved "an unprecedented situation in New Zealand's legal history", she said.

"To proceed with this case would have caused incalculable damage to confidence in the judiciary."

The incident that ultimately ended Justice Wilson's career occurred when he was on the Court of Appeal bench in 2007, hearing a wool levies case in which Mr Galbraith QC appeared for one of the parties that was successful in its appeal.

It was alleged that Justice Wilson did not properly disclose his business relationship with Mr Galbraith, though he made an informal disclosure.

They were co-owners of Rich Hill Ltd, which owned the site of Rich Hill thoroughbred stud, part-owned by Mr Galbraith. There were allegations that Justice Wilson owed Mr Galbraith $242,804, which was not disclosed to the Court of Appeal hearing. The debt was denied by Justice Wilson.

The Supreme Court last November ordered the decision be set aside and the case re-heard, on the grounds Justice Wilson and Mr Galbraith's relationship could raise a perception of bias.

In May this year, Ms Collins accepted Sir David's recommendation that there should be further inquiries into complaints against Justice Wilson.

A judicial conduct panel was set up for the first time in New Zealand to hear the complaints, but the High Court last month quashed the decision.

There has been no comment from Justice Wilson or the Supreme Court.

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