Hundreds farewell leading barrister

MIRIYANA ALEXANDER
Last updated 17:23 27/04/2012
John Haigh
MARTIN HUNTER/Fairfax NZ

LOVE OF LIFE: Hundreds turned out to farewell John Haigh, QC, in Auckland.

John Haigh
LAID TO REST: John Haigh

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Hundreds of mourners farewelled leading Auckland barrister John Haigh, QC, today.

A packed congregation heard tributes to the highly-respected lawyer from friends, politicians and members of the legal community at his 90-minute funeral service in Parnell's Holy Trinity Cathedral this afternoon.

Haigh died suddenly at Auckland City Hospital last Saturday, surrounded by family and friends, after suffering a brain haemorrhage. He was 65.

He is survived by his wife Sue and two adult children, Alastair and Anna, who were among those to deliver eulogies today.

They spoke of their father's sense of fun, his love of the outdoors and animals, his dodgy dress sense and misguided love of Coronation St, and the respect they had for his achievements.

They paid tribute to their parents' long and happy marriage, and their mother's support of Haigh's career, saying he must have been the only barrister in Auckland to go to work with a packed morning tea and lunch, for more than 30 years.

They were moved to tears as they said their great "totara had fallen", and given their father's spirituality and love of angels, they hoped he was now with them.

Mourners also heard tributes from his brother Tim Haigh and friends Paul East, former government minister and attorney-general, and High Court Judge Justice Rodney Hansen.

They described Haigh's early years at Auckland Grammar, his university study and love of a party, and acknowledged a family man who had a strong sense of social justice and whose dedication to his clients often took its toll on him.

Former governor-general and friend Anand Satyanand delivered a reading.

In an illustrious career, Haigh worked on some of New Zealand's most high-profile legal cases, among them securing an acquittal for rape-accused assistant police commissioner Clint Rickards.

He specialised in criminal and employment law, and his recent cases included work on the Pike River mining disaster and the Ports of Auckland industrial stoush.

Haigh was admitted to the bar in 1984 and became a Queen's Counsel in 1993.

He was the referee for Crown Solicitor Simon Moore when he became a Senior Counsel.

"He really was a man for all seasons," Moore said after Haigh's death. "He managed to balance the frantic high-level legal representation with grounded humility."

He said Haigh had a great courage and would take up unpopular causes because he realised that it was an intrinsic aspect of the practice of law.

"You have to mix the good with the bad and he treated everybody the same."

East met Haigh 47 years ago at their first day at law school together.

"He gave himself selflessly to his clients and helped a huge number of people," East said. "He died when he was at the peak of his career."

A fan of swimming in the sea, classical music and a drop of whisky, Haigh told the Sunday Star-Times in an interview after the Rickards case that as a younger man he was a "great partygoer" who enjoyed playing the guitar.
 Haigh followed his father Frank into law.

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Haigh senior was a well-known advocate of social justice, and also represented unions, including during the 1951 waterfront strike.

Of his father, Haigh said: "He was a great innovator in social justice, in a way that infuriated conservatives, particularly when he represented the union [in the 1951 strikes]. My mother remembers other lawyers refusing to have anything to do with him, or her.

"I remember walking down Queen St in 1960 with him, as a rather reluctant kid I may say, in the No Maoris No Tour protest. I don't have the courage he had."

Haigh said his father didn't want him to go into law because of the heavy workload.

"He worked virtually every night, and about 48-50 weekends every year."

Asked how he coped with the workload, he said: "Fortitude, and a wonderful wife who can put up with having a barrister, with his hours and the intensity of it all, for a husband."

Haigh lived in Remuera, a suburb he said "had always been home".

"I like the people, I love the hills, we've got the volcanoes around us, the harbour. I love the trains across Hobson Bay," he told the Sunday Star-Times.

- Auckland Now

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