Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Business Insider: Female QCs still a work in progress

Una Jagose. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Una Jagose. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Business Insider was surprised at the jubilation from the Law Society, over the number of women named as Queen's Counsel this week.

"Four new female Queen's Counsel is encouraging for all women that tirelessly practise law," said the society after Attorney-General Chris Finlayson revealed this year's crop.

Given that eight of the 12 new QCs are male, the society could equally have declared: "Gender equality yet to be achieved at the top tier of the legal profession."

The society did, however, note that things were improving. "In 2013 four women out of 26 practitioners were made Queen's Counsel and in 2014 the ratio was four women out of 14 QCs. So the ratio is increasing, albeit slowly," it said.

The glacial pace of change is no surprise, given that women QCs didn't exist in this country until 1988.

The four new female QCs are Jane Anderson, Vanessa Bruton, Victoria Casey and Una Jagose.

As well, Business Insider noted that two barristers who were part of an unsuccessful bid to wrestle the Crown warrant from Meredith Connell - Aaron Perkins and Kieran Raftery - also took silk.

Investors' gain

Neal Nicholls' burned investors are finally going to get their hands on assets the police seized from him.

Nicholls, a bankrupted former Capital + Merchant Finance director, is one of a handful of white collar criminals whose ill-gotten gains the authorities have pursued.

Neal Nicholls. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Neal Nicholls. Photo / Sarah Ivey

He was targeted after being sentenced to eight years, six months' jail for theft and misleading investors in cases brought by the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Markets Authority.

A police investigation disclosed that Nicholls had contingent interests in various properties but the parties cut a deal rather than argue it out in front of a judge and about $1.9 million was forfeited to the Crown.

When Business Insider queried the Official Assignee last July, it said Capital + Merchant investors were not in line to get any of the money. That situation, sensibly, has now changed after the company's receivers applied to the High Court, which this week approved an arrangement where investors will get the funds.

A payout has been a long time coming for these investors, who were owed $167 million when the company collapsed in 2007. They only received their first distribution earlier this year.

Riches to rags

The couple who ran the now-failed Jean Jones clothing chain have been declared bankrupt.

Georgina and Keri Condon bought Jean Jones out of receivership in 2010 with the aim of breathing new life into the brand, part of New Zealand's retail landscape since 1969.

Georgina and Keri Condon, before Jean Jones went under. Photo / NZME
Georgina and Keri Condon, before Jean Jones went under. Photo / NZME

By 2014 the pair had nearly doubled the number of stores and employed almost 100 staff, but their company collapsed under its debt load last July.

Some 12 months on, textile company Charles Parsons brought bankruptcy action against the pair.

Associate Judge Jeremy Doogue, sitting in the High Court at Auckland on Thursday, declared Keri Condon bankrupt.

During Thursday's hearing Charles Parsons withdrew its action against Georgina Condon because she had already been declared bankrupt last week.

Although liquidators Amanda-Jane Atkins and Rowan John Chapman continued to operate some Jean Jones stores after their appointment, the last of the chain shut last October.

Atkins and Chapman's latest report, filed in February, says they are continuing discussions with parties interested in buying the Jeans Jones brand.

Secured creditors were owed $669,521 when the Condons' company, Cozican Investments, went into liquidation. Employees were owed $117,810, Inland Revenue was owed $334,607 and unsecured creditors were due $1,217,491.

Employees, as of February, were still owed around $50,000.

No money is expected to be available for either the IRD or unsecured creditors.

Access denied

The High Court has refused to let Business Insider take a peek at evidence taken before a New Zealand judge for the May Wang prosecution in Hong Kong.

Wang, best known in this country for her failed bid to buy the Crafar Farms, was this week sentenced to eight years and three months' jail.

Her two co-accused, Jack Chen and Wenjye Yee, were sentenced to seven years, nine months' jail and five years' jail respectively.

The trio were all found guilty of conspiracy to defraud over their attempts to buy the North Island farms, later purchased by China's Shanghai Pengxin, for a sum thought to be about $200 million.

During their marathon trial last year, a cohort of lawyers took a jaunt to this country for evidence to be heard from New Zealand witnesses. At the time, the media were prohibited from reporting what was said.

And now it seems anyone interested in what the court heard will need the approval of the Hong Kong judiciary.

When Business Insider applied for access to the notes of evidence, Justice Rebecca Ellis said: "In my view the notes of evidence belong to (and fall within the jurisdiction of) the High Court of Hong Kong. Accordingly any request for access to the transcript needs to be made to that court."

- NZ Herald

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