A bizarre legal bid to prosecute a dead man has been thrown out by a judge today, who said the case resembled the famous Monty Python comedy sketch involving a dead parrot.

The case of two Korean trawler officers accused of dumping fish at sea was called at Christchurch District Court today.

But while the skipper of Oyang 77, Dae Jun Lee, appeared in the dock, his co-accused was not present.

Lawyer Mike Sullivan said he was representing the estate of Soon Ill Hwang, 42, who died in a car crash in China after charges were laid against him earlier this year.


Mr Sullivan told Judge Gary Macaskill that it was an "unusual case'' because the prosecution, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), wanted to bring a case against his deceased client.

He added that Hwang never appeared in court - and even said he may have died unaware that he had been charged.

Lawyer for MPI, Grant Fletcher told the judge that "there are still reasons for this prosecution to go ahead''.

But a bemused Judge Macaskill replied flatly: "We can't try dead people.''

The judge said the idea was "absurd'', sarcastically suggesting that evidence from the accused could perhaps be gleaned via seance.

"It reminds me of the Monty Python sketch with the dead parrot.''

He threw out the suggestion that a dead man could be tried, and suggested that if the MPI wanted to take it further, they could appeal his decision through the High Court.

"I think the law is absolutely clear and I'm not going to spend two or three hours dealing with that,'' Judge Macaskill said.

A new date was set down to hear legal arguments ahead of the taking of evidence from Indonesian crew members.

Mr Fletcher raised concerns that there could be "extreme difficulties'' in getting witnesses in New Zealand to give evidence because they are fishing all over the world.

But Judge Macaskill said it was something the prosecution "would have to live with''.

Lee, 39, denies nine fisheries breaches and has indicated he will fight the charges.

He did not comment when he left court today.