Tauranga criminal barrister Paul Mabey QC has been sworn in as a district court judge.

Tauranga criminal barrister Paul Mabey QC is the country's newest district court judge after a special swearing-in ceremony which included glowing accolades and plenty of humour.

It was standing room only as family, friends and colleagues from both sides of the criminal bar, police, court and probation staff and a large contingent of past and present judges gathered at a special district court sitting at Tauranga courthouse yesterday.

That included Justice Paul Heath, Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft and Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue, who presided over the swearing-in ceremony.

Judge Mabey will initially sit in Tauranga, then also in Rotorua.

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We are extremely grateful that he is here like a star which has fallen from the sky into the court.

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His proud wife Susan, his daughters Claire and Virginia, Virginia's partner and Mrs Mabey's mother, Betty, were all there to see him sworn in. His son, Nick, who lives in London, was absent.

The ceremony began with a powhiri led by Rotorua lawyer Louis Te Kani and Tauranga Judge Louis Bidois.

Judge Bidois said Judge Mabey's expertise at his craft and his job and his elevation to the bench had left a "huge hole" in the criminal bar and it was a big loss for Tauranga lawyers.

"But their loss is our gain and the district court judges are delighted you have chosen to join us on the bench," he said

Judge Peter Rollo, who gave the closing address on behalf of tangata whenua, said Judge Mabey's knowledge of the law and his expertise would be invaluable to the bench.

"We are extremely grateful that he is here like a star which has fallen from the sky into the court and all his fellow judges are delighted he has chosen to join us on the bench."

Judge Doogue said the district court bench was "blessed" to have someone of Judge Mabey's huge depth of experience, knowledge and expertise in the law join them.

"I have every faith that you will be a spectacular judge and colleague on the district court bench."

Crown solicitor Greg Hollister-Jones said Judge Mabey was legendary for his high standards of professionalism, his honesty, fairness, humility and also his fearlessness as an advocate for upholding the rule of law and pursuing justice.

"We all know you will make an excellent judge," he said.

Judge Mabey practised as a litigation solicitor for 18 years in Christchurch, Palmerston North and Tauranga and in 1994 joined the independent bar conducting criminal and general litigation.

In 2000 he was appointed Queen's Counsel and specialised in criminal law.

Also in attendance was Tauranga MP and Associate Justice Minister Simon Bridges.

Outside court, Mr Bridges said: "As a former Crown prosecutor I had the privilege of working with Judge Mabey. He is not just the Bay of Plenty's best lawyer but he is one of New Zealand's most experienced and seasoned criminal lawyers ... I have huge admiration for Judge Mabey. "