Hamilton District Court's 'good guy' retires

00:44, Jan 23 2014
Clive Houston
Happy to help: Clive Houston will be missed around the Hamilton District Court after retiring in November last year.

For a man kidnapped by Brazilian Indians at the tender age of four, Clive Houston is remarkably laid back and kind.

If you've had to frequent the Hamilton District Court over the past 16 years, you've probably bumped into him, or even had the pleasure of dealing with him.

But as of November last year, the month which also coincided with his 73rd birthday, Mr Houston retired.

It was a low-key affair, with many oblivious of the fact November 8 would be his last day.

After working as a probation officer, Mr Houston eventually got a job working for PARS, Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society, an organisation which works to reduce offending by providing support and reintegration services to offenders and their whanau.

His modest and friendly nature is nothing like his childhood, which was full of adventures, some scarier than others, in Brazil.


His father Frances worked for the Brazilian Government translating the indigenous dialect into Portuguese and English, while his mother, Dulcie, was a midwife who also worked in tropical medicines.

But when he was four he was suddenly - and without reason - kidnapped by the Kayapo Indians from the banks of the Xingu River.

"I was blond-haired with long, long locks and blue eyed. Possibly that was the reason, I don't remember. Kids get kidnapped here but these were wild Indians, they used to fight each other, they were tribal."

He was missing for a few days before a search group eventually found him.

Houston grew up sleeping in a hammock and having snakes and tarantulas for possible bed partners.

"You had to shake your shoes and give the toilet seat a good bang down. You'd have to be careful swimming in the river because of the crocodiles."

His affinity with the justice system grew from a young age. After all, his father's principles were "justice, truth and freedom"; one the whole family stood by.

It's no wonder then that after the family uprooted themselves - due to Brazil's volatile nature in the 1940s - when Mr Houston was aged 13 and shifted to his father's homeland of Ireland, that he eventually studied law as an adult. After a short stint in school, where he began to learn English, he was shipped off to boarding school in Wales.

After becoming a qualified lawyer, and travelling the world, he found the shores of New Zealand in 1965, reaching Hamilton in the 80s.

He worked as a social worker and probation officer. In 2007 he became a Justice of the Peace and three years later a qualified judicial justice.

Back at the court house, one of those unaware that Mr Houston had slipped out of the building was Hamilton District Court Judge Philip Connell.

Judge Connell has known Mr Houston even longer than the 13 years he's sat on the bench at the court, first meeting him during his days as a lawyer.

Mr Houston was one of the few "selfless" people left in the world, as most people focused on themselves.

"He is the most unselfish person I have met in my life, and in a world where we're all looking after ourselves . . . to see someone like that is inspiring."

"It's a realisation that there are considerate and kind people like him who has done work that I must admire him for. He's a very considerate fellow."

Hamilton lawyer Gavin Boot was also working with Judge Connell in the 80s when he met Mr Houston. He described Mr Houston as someone who would "do anything for anyone".

Hamilton District Court security officer Tal Iuli said Mr Houston had been the "eyes and ears" for him and his colleagues. "He's such a good guy, he always goes out of his way to help his clients as well as staff. We were very lucky to have him."

Meanwhile, Mr Houston isn't having a problem adjusting to retired life, despite playing a deaf ear to the repeated requests of wife, Catherine, and their three children, to slow down.

Now, the couple are concentrating on building the garden of their 18-month-old Raglan house.

Mr Houston says while he'll eventually become accustomed to his retirement, he will miss working with people. "I like to find out about people, where they come from and what they are doing and what their plans are. I think that's why I enjoyed my (Pars) job because my interest was in that person themselves, I wasn't there just to do this, this and this."