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Canterbury law students to help prepare prosecution cases

Canterbury law students to help prepare prosecution cases

June 4, 2014

University of Canterbury law students will soon be helping Christchurch lawyer Nigel Hampton QC and Simon Meikle, barrister and solicitor of Wellington, prepare prosecutions cases relating to a number of alleged forestry safety violations leading to deaths.

Logging is New Zealand's third biggest export, behind dairy products and meat, with an industry worth $3.8 billion in overseas earnings last year. But the 10 forestry deaths recorded last year is seven times the average of Australia. The rate of ACC claims for work related injuries in the industry was six times the rate for all other industry sectors combined.

Hampton is assisting pro-bono in four cases against forestry companies for safety violations and is leading Council of Trade Unions’ prosecutions against logging contractors. He has received a judgment in a Rotorua forestry fatality case giving permission to proceed even though the case was technically out of time.

Four teams of UC law students, two per team, will be selected later next month to assist him to prepare and privately prosecute these cases, University of Canterbury director of clinical legal studies Professor Robin Palmer says.

``The Law School, through our clinical law programme, is helping select a number of law student volunteers to assist. We believe it is important for the graduate profile of all our law students that they are involved in the legal community so they are career-ready when they leave the university. From next year all our law students will have to give 100 hours of community legal service before they can graduate.

``We are also developing international exchanges to place students at international criminal courts and research issues relevant to certain cases. These student placements are all part of the broader public interest law movement initiated by the Dean of the Law School Associate Professor Chris Gallavin.’’

Hampton says his pro-bono involvement related four cases all resulting in deaths in the Bay of Plenty forestry areas.

``It’s great to get University of Canterbury law student support. They will prepare full timelines, setting out and highlighting factual issues along the particular line and assisting research into relevant statute and case law. The assistance of the law students will be invaluable, from my perspective.

``This may involve some comparative studies of other corresponding common law jurisdictions especially in Canada with its considerable forestry industry and the dramatic drop in fatalities there in more recent times.’’

University of Canterbury law students have begun volunteering their time, as part of the programme in collaboration with national organisation Law For Change New Zealand, to help Christchurch residents take court action against the Earthquake Commission (EQC).

The group action, led by law firm Anthony Harper, has 147 claimants. The action is seeking a declaratory judgment that EQC is not meeting its obligations under the Earthquake Commission Act 1993. About 50 law students are volunteering their time to help under the clinical legal studies programme at the university.

Professor Palmer says other law students would work alongside Environment Canterbury and the Department of Conservation in other initiatives while some law interns would help practitioners prepare submissions to Parliament on law reform bills.

ends

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