John Haigh QC farewelled

By Edward Gay

Alastair Haigh (right), son of the late John Haigh QC, carries his father's casket as it is piped from the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Photo / NZ Herald
Alastair Haigh (right), son of the late John Haigh QC, carries his father's casket as it is piped from the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Photo / NZ Herald

Distinguished members of the legal profession were among the mourners who farewelled barrister John Haigh QC at his funeral at in Parnell this afternoon.

Mr Haigh, 65, died of a brain haemorrhage on Saturday in Auckland Hospital surrounded by friends and family.

More than one thousand people packed Holy Trinity Cathedral to standing room only, with many seated in the choir stalls and others forced to stand in the back.

The congregation included High Court and District Court judges, Police Commissioner Peter Marshall, Crown prosecutors and members of the Criminal Bar as well as Mr Haigh's loving family and friends.

Family and long-time friends spoke about a man who had a brilliant legal mind and was not afraid to take on the tough cases.

His most recent cases included work on the royal commission of inquiry into the Pike River mining disaster and the Ports of Auckland industrial stand-off.

He also successfully defended former assistant police commissioner Clint Rickards in 2007, who was found not guilty of rape, and former Labour minister David Benson-Pope after claims he put a tennis ball in the mouth of a former student.

The congregation heard about the private family man who treasured his wife Susan and two children who survive him.

Brother Tim Haigh spoke of Mr Haigh's proud Irish ancestry.

"He obtained his Irish passport and was very pleased he had more than one passport - just like some of his criminal clients."

He also spoke of Mr Haigh's wife, Susan, who had played an "enormous role" in supporting her husband.

Lawyer and former Attorney-General Paul East, QC, met Mr Haigh while the pair were studying law at the University of Auckland 47 years ago. They remained close friends.

Mr East paid tribute to his friend's wicked sense of humour.

On one occasion Mr Haigh spotted a friend at the traffic lights. Mr East said Haigh yelled out: "Stop that man, I've seen him on Crime Watch."

Another long-time friend, Justice Rodney Hansen said Mr Haigh's values as a lawyer were non-negotiable and he had an "arsenal of skills which made him formidable".

"He had a deep instinctive feel for what was fair and just," he said.

Justice Hansen said Mr Haigh was deeply respected by all judges, which was reflected in the hundreds of lawyers and court staff attending the funeral service.

"The legal fraternity is greatly diminished by his passing."

The service also included a bible reading by Former Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand.

Mr Haigh's casket was piped out of the packed funeral before members of the congregation paid their final respects at the back of the hearse.

His father, Frank Haigh, was also a lawyer and social justice advocate who represented unions, including during the 1951 waterfront dispute.

- APNZ

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