Court bid rejected

SALLY KIDSON
Last updated 13:00 13/12/2012

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Former Nelson liquidator Pat Norris has lost in court action he took challenging a search order that saw records seized from his home and business.

Mr Norris also unsuccessfully argued his friend, Jack Churchill, had been legally appointed liquidator of his unfinished files.

Mr Norris was convicted in October of stealing from an Auckland company.

As a result of his fraud conviction the official assignee appointed new liquidators - insolvency practitioner Rhys Cain and chartered accountant Bruce Gemmell, of Ernst and Young in Christchurch - to handle Mr Norris' four unfinished cases.

The new liquidators served search orders last month at Mr Norris' Mount St home and Haven Rd offices and took away files and documents relating to the four liquidations.

In a written decision this month, Justice Simon France said Mr Norris had applied to the High Court for the return of documents taken on the basis the warrant should not have been issued.

Mr Norris said he had resigned from the files before his conviction and had appointed Mr Churchill as his successor. Mr Norris argued the appointment of the new liquidators was invalid. He also said unrelated business documents were taken during the search.

Justice France said Mr Norris appointed Mr Churchill as liquidator on October 16, the day he was convicted of fraud. But he did not lodge the appointment forms with the Registrar of Companies until October 18, which was too late.

Justice France said the lodgement date was the effective date.

He noted Mr Churchill had no experience and was closely connected to Mr Norris.

Justice France said all challenges from Mr Norris had failed.

"There is no basis to quash the search order or direct a general return of the goods seized."

He awarded costs against Mr Norris.

Justice France said Mr Churchill took an active role to uphold his appointment despite having indicated he was willing to resign.

"When it was pointed out he could settle the dispute by resigning in favour of the applicants, this was [resisted] because of concern over the impact of his resignation on the challenge made by the other respondents to the search order."

Justice France said that reflected a misunderstanding of the roles and called into question his independence from Mr Norris.

Justice France said Mr Churchill was also liable for costs.

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