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Former Chief Justice played ‘enormous’ role in Cook Islands judiciary

Wednesday 16 November 2022 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Court, National


Former Chief Justice played ‘enormous’ role in Cook Islands judiciary
High court registrar Claudine Henry-Anguna with Justice Sir Ian Barker, former Ombudsman Nooapii Tearea and Justices of the Peace Georgina Williams and Carmen Temata. 19040521

A former Chief Justice who played a key role in Cook Islands courts has passed away.

Sir Ian Barker has been described as a lawyer who played an “enormous” part in the judicial life of the Cook Islands.

He was 88 and is survived by his wife Mary, his five children, and his grandchildren

In a written statement, Chief Justice of New Zealand Dame Helen Winkelman confirmed he died on November 11.

“Sir Ian was an outstanding judge and a true leader of the profession. His distinguished career in the law spanned sixty years of service to the law, to the judiciary – both here and in the Pacific – and to our society. His passing is a loss that will be widely felt” said the Chief Justice.

Sir Ian was farewelled in a final ceremonial sitting held at the Cook Islands High Court in 2019 where Chief Justice Sir Hugh Williams QC said Sir Ian played an enormous part in the judicial life of the Cook Islands.

“He was always ready with friendly advice, always helpful, never condescending and never overbearing. He was always interested in his role on the bench and the welfare of other judges,” Chief Justice Williams said at the time.

Sir Ian served as a judge of several Pacific courts, most notably, on the Cook Islands Court of Appeal from 1990 to 2019, including as President of the Court.

Other stints included the Fiji Court of Appeal (1997-2007), Vanuatu Court of Appeal, Samoa Court of Appeal, Pitcairn Court of Appeal, and Kiribati Court of Appeal.

He played a crucial role in several Cook Islands Law Reform projects.

In 2006 he led the constitution legislative establishment of the Cook Islands Court of Appeal on   more formal basis.

He judged a wide range of criminal civil and land matters of the court of appeal

Sir Ian also worked on the Crimes Bill which is still being deliberated.

He also played a part in drafting the Family Protection and Support Act.

At the time of his final ceremonial sitting in Rarotonga, President of the Court of Appeal Justice Sir David Williams thanked Sir Ian for his outstanding contribution to the law and administration of the Cook Islands over the past 20 years.

Sir Ian was also a university law school teacher from 1960-1973 and chancellor at the University of Auckland from 1991-1999, the longest term of any chancellor.

He graduated with a BA and LLB from the University of Auckland in 1958, and was admitted to the bar in the same year.

He took silk in 1973, and was appointed as a Judge of the High Court in 1976, at the age of 42.

He was a Judge of the High Court for 21 years, retiring in 1997.

He was an acting Judge of the High Court for some years thereafter.

Throughout his 21 years of judicial service in Aotearoa, Sir Ian made numerous distinguished contributions to the evolution and development of the New Zealand court system.

He was Executive Judge of the Auckland High Court for six years. He was also instrumental in the introduction of the Commercial List in Auckland and was its Judge-in-Charge from 1987 to 1997.

As a member of the Rules Committee for 11 years, including eight years as Chair, he presided over the drafting and implementation of new High Court Rules in 1985 which represented a significant simplification of the rules.

He was also a leader in the introduction of judicial case management – a revolutionary idea for most of the common law world at the time. As a judge, Sir Ian was renowned for his work on complex and highly detailed cases, such as the 10-year long Securitibank liquidation – a case which resulted in well over 50 separate judgments.

Sir Ian was the senior puisne judge from 1993, and served as Acting Chief Justice for several periods.

He also served periodically on the Court of Appeal from 1981. Sir Ian was knighted for services to the law in 1994, and received an honorary LLD from his alma mater in 1999.

Outside of the courtroom, Sir Ian was President of the Legal Research Foundation from 1982 to 1991, and was appointed as a fellow at the end of his term.

He was also a visiting fellow at law schools in Australia, Canada, and England (including four separate periods as visiting fellow at Wolfson College, Cambridge.

He was also the patron of the In-House Lawyers Association of New Zealand (ILANZ) from its inception.

After his retirement as a judge in New Zealand, Sir Ian continued his distinguished legal career as an arbitrator and mediator. He was a founding member of Bankside Chambers in the early 2000s, and became an Associate Member in 2019. He continued to serve on the various Pacific courts, and played a crucial role in several Cooks Islands Law Reform projects.

He also took on major appointments in New Zealand and abroad, including as Chair of the Banking Ombudsman (1997-2010) and as the New Zealand member of the ACC Arbitration Commission in Paris from 2000. He was the first World Intellectual Property Organisation domain dispute panellist appointed in New Zealand in 2000, resolving domain disputes for the WIPO, National Arbitration Forum (USA) and Internet New Zealand. He was the President of the Arbitrators’ & Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand (2000-2002) and Chair of the Sir George Elliot Charitable Trust (2003-2019).

Sir Ian remained an active member of his community after his retirement. Along with two other retired High Court Judges and a retired District Court Judge, he attended Otahuhu College once a week to provide remedial reading assistance to students. Sir Ian was a highly esteemed colleague of his fellow Judges and admired and respected by those who appeared before him not just for his efficiency and intellect but also for his personal warmth.