As I said at the weekend, Greg King was not just a top lawyer, but someone who could engage without rancour on important issues around our justice system. This is reflected by the fact that tributes have come from family members of murder victims where he represented the killer, and many others. I’ve gone through various sites to gather some of the tributes.
- Lesley Elliott said she was “shattered” by his death. While the family might not have appreciated Mr King’s “tactics” during Weatherston’s trial, the lawyer earned their admiration and respect. His personal side was sympathetic, generous, passionate and humane, she said. She had attended justice forums at which Mr King was a lone voice on some issues. He was prepared to be at odds with others, but the “great thing about him” was an ability to listen and engage.
- Sophie’s father, Gil Elliott, said Mr King was extremely intelligent, courteous and friendly. “He admired Sophie, he told me that.”
- Auckland Crown Solicitor Simon Moore, SC, said the thing he most admired about Mr King was his “completely principled approach to everything he did”. He had a “sense of proportion” which made him such an effective advocate.
- Barry Hart said Mr King was the architect of Dixon’s appeal and eventual 2008 retrial. He added that he was reeling from his friend’s death. “He’s helped me and gone beyond the call of duty to assist me both as a friend and as a fellow lawyer in my time of need. I don’t want to really go into all of that but Greg was there for me and, as I say, I’m in disbelief.”
- Convicted double murderer John Barlow told 3 News: “In prison, people talk about lawyers a lot. There’s only one lawyer that came up a lot and every single time people praised him, whether he’d won their case or not.”
- Wainuiomata Rugby League Club spokesman Simon Itula said King played a significant role in rescuing the club from serious financial trouble when he became involved as a sponsor in 2008. … “He was just hugely inspirational and always positive. Even though we knew we were struggling and we felt there was no way out, he would always come in and allow us to remain positive.”
- Former Wellington District Law Society president Gary Turkington said … “He was very affable and enormously liked and had the gift of the gab, which is pretty essential if you’re in criminal work. “He’ll be sorely missed.”
- Former MP and fellow Wellington lawyer Stephen Franks said he would remember King as a man deeply concerned about issues of law reform. “For me Greg was like coming across an oasis in the desert. “It was so refreshing to find someone who wanted to put time into improving it [the legal system] and open-minded about the criticisms.”
- “Although young in years, Greg King had already achieved a huge amount in his career,” Chris Finlayson told NBR. “He was a lawyer in the finest traditions of the criminal bar, of the same stature as the likes of Mike Bungay, Kevin Ryan and Roy Stacey. “He was a fine advocate and a very nice guy. His early death is very sad, and my deepest sympathies go to his family at this time.”
- Law Society head Jonathan Temm said the legal profession was “tremendously saddened” by Mr King’s death. “Throughout his career he represented clients who were often unpopular and he did that with real ability and determination,” Mr Temm said.
- Dunedin Crown solicitor Robin Bates said he was saddened by Mr King’s death. They had appeared on opposing sides in cases, in which Mr King was a “fine advocate” who fought hard for his clients. “Greg was one of those people who was straight up, and direct, and you knew where you stood with him … his word was his bond in that regard.”
- Otago University Faculty of Law dean Prof Mark Henaghan spoke highly of his former student, whose career he followed with interest and pride. Mr King had been subject to massive public vitriol for doing the crucial work of a defence lawyer, a role whose importance in the legal system was under-estimated by the public, Prof Henaghan said. … Mr King, who started law school in Dunedin in 1989, was a conscientious and questioning student who went on to an extraordinary career in which he was counsel in about 50 homicide cases, Prof Henaghan said. He was unusual in taking some at his own expense, and remaining sensitive to victims while being an outstanding advocate for the accused.
- His mentor, Dunedin lawyer Judith Ablett-Kerr QC, was distraught when contacted on Saturday. “I’m absolutely devastated,” she said. “He was like a son to me.”
- GPT – I heard the news about an hour ago. To say it is shocking is an understatement. A tragedy, especially with a young family. I was fortunate enough to met Greg several years ago at Lit Skills. He was simply inspirational. The law and advocacy simply flowed from him. He was genuine, supportive and personally interested and, freakishly, would remember you even years later. As with so many of the most brilliant he had his eccentricities – I remember someone telling me that if it wasn’t for his staff he would never earn any money because all he did was law. Billing just happened. Clearly he also had some serious demons. The profession has lost a giant but his family have lost so much more and with them my thoughts are with.
- FE Smith – A great lawyer, fantastic raconteur, wonderful teacher of other lawyers, and all around good guy. A judge in the making if ever there was one. We will all miss his presence at the Defence Bar.
- Finlay Torrance – I sit here stunned at the loss of a great friend. I have had the privilege of knowing Greg since his varsity days and only have great things to say about the man,I just cant for the life of me get my head around the fact he is gone.
- David Garrett – All I want to say is that Greg represented me without charge in my fight against the Law Society to get my practising certificate back. He knew I was not in a position to pay him. At a rough guess, he probably gave me $5,000 of his time when he knew I could not pay. We were nominally on opposite sides of the law and order debate. I respected him greatly, and I feel immensely for his wife and children.
- Sandy – He didn’t know how to say no to helping people. … NZ has lost one of its greatest. We met only a few times but had mutual friends and how far this guy went for clients, both as a lawyer and human being was phenomenal. … His intellect was above and beyond, his drive and quest to improve life for the underdog unmatched.
UPDATE: I must include this column by Sir Bob Jones:
Greg King was one of the finest men I ever met. … He will be remembered by all who knew him as a very special human, whom we will all miss dreadfully.