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Disgraced judge appointed as human rights director

Disgraced former District Court judge Robert Hesketh has been appointed director of human rights proceedings in the Human Rights Commission.

Mr Hesketh -- who in 1997 admitted fiddling his expenses, lost his seat on the bench and was fined -- will take up the position in a new group of commissioners appointed today.

Mr Hesketh was fined $8000 after pleading guilty in Auckland District Court to fraudulently claiming $815 in travel expenses and was struck off the roll of barristers and solicitors later that year.

Mr Hesketh was readmitted to the roll unconditionally in 1999, with the Law Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal noting he was a person of "real integrity, probity and trustworthiness".

Announcing Mr Hesketh's appointment today, Associate Justice Minister Margaret Wilson said Mr Hesketh had the "appropriate experience and skills" for the advocacy position.

She acknowledged he had been "guilty of an error of judgment" while a District Court judge, but said that "even in his troubles he had acted with integrity".

Ms Wilson said Mr Hesketh had 20 years' experience in the criminal justice system.

He was an accredited mediator of Lawyers Engaged in Alternative Dispute Resolution (LEADR) and had been a guest instructor at LEADR courses.

Mr Hesketh was a tenancy adjudicator for eight years and was active in a number of community organisations, such as Citizens Advice Bureaux and Lifeline.

"The Government feels it is important people like Mr Hesketh are allowed to get on with their lives and make their positive contribution to the community," Ms Wilson said.

Mr Hesketh will take up his position on June 1.

Three new commissioners were among the group named today by chief human rights commissioner Rosslyn Noonan.

Joy Liddicoat, Robyn Hunt and Dr Merimeri Penfold received their warrants today.

Ms Noonan congratulated current commissioners Warren Lindberg and Michael Powles, who have been reappointed for a further five years.

She also welcomed Mr Hesketh's appointment and a new chairman for the human rights review tribunal, Royden Hindle.

- NZPA

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