Her cases involve crimes that are cold-blooded, inexcusable and premeditated, but New Zealand's youngest Crown solicitor isn't weighed down by badness.

LONG after her neighbours' lights go out, Anna Pollett is still awake.

With a pen in one hand and paper fanned around her, crime files keep her up into the wee hours.

When a court trial is on, regular life pauses.

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"I think the more prepared you are, and the more you know about your case, once you get to court, you just have to roll with whatever happens," she says.

Trials can be unpredictable, but when Pollett strides across a hushed courtroom with the accused a few feet away, she's spent "hundreds of hours" preparing for the moment.

At age 42, she's the youngest of 17 Crown solicitors in New Zealand, six of whom are female.

Crown solicitors oversee a team of prosecutors, and together they conduct criminal prosecutions for the Crown, overseeing complex multi-complainant sex trials, drug trials and homicides.

As men and women have their lives decided in front of her, Pollett has never been weighed down by the subject matter, despite the fact that it can be "harrowing".

A modestly-described "average student", she started her working life straight out of college at the IRD, put herself through law school, and has now gone on to be appointed the 10-year Crown warrant holder for Tauranga, opening Pollett Legal in January.

She replaced Greg Hollister-Jones, the long serving Crown solicitor for Tauranga, after a tender process when Hollister-Jones became a district court judge in April, 2017.

She is a battler who seems to juggle parenthood and work with surety.

She's also an advocate for women and Māori in law, with plans to run a summer internship to encourage law students from the Bay's three iwi into the profession, where numbers are underrepresented.

Figures from Statistics New Zealand show that there are 820 Māori lawyers in New Zealand, compared to 12,532 from other ethnicities; 77.9 per cent of which are New Zealand European.

"When we established the firm, it was important for me to encourage Māori law students into criminal law," she says, noting that criminal law is not as lucrative as other areas, and therefore not as popular.

At age 42, Anna Pollett is the youngest of 17 Crown solicitors in New Zealand, six of whom are female Photo / George Novak.
At age 42, Anna Pollett is the youngest of 17 Crown solicitors in New Zealand, six of whom are female Photo / George Novak.

"We have that challenge, and not just in the Crown, but the defence bar as well."

She feels the weight of the responsibility that comes with being Crown solicitor but believes it to be a "great privilege" too.

Pollett Legal has more than 100 active files, with a record number of crime matters for the Western and Eastern Bay of Plenty reported to the Crown Law Office in June.

She and her team of six, soon to be seven, prosecutors are currently working on six homicide cases, as well as sexual assault, violence, dishonesty and drugs cases, and act for the New Zealand Police and other Government departments and agencies.

When it comes to crime, the nature of the offence dictates when a file comes to Pollett Legal, and how it's dealt with.

These guys are really busy," Pollett says, throwing a glance over her shoulder at deserted office desks, all of which are bursting with files.

Most of her prosecutors are out working today, with the bulk of their cases high-level infractions.

For this reason, she feels the biggest issue for lawyers is managing their own wellness.

"There can be high-pressure, and there can be lengthy periods of time without a circuit breaker. They need to take short breaks to know you can stop."

A reminder, and motivation for that sentiment, is hanging on her own office wall.

A framed photograph of her late, close friend Moana Schwalger, a former prosecuting colleague from Meredith Connell, who died at 35, 18 months after being diagnosed with breast cancer soon after the birth of her third child in 2011.

There is more to life than work, Pollett says, with mental input for lawyers high.

She walks her dogs on the beach every day before work, but that's something that goes when she's in trial.

She coaches her son's hockey team, and has supported her children's implementation of a Friday Cafe at Mount Maunganui Primary School, where money raised is going towards a swimming coach for students.

Dressed head-to-toe in black, bar silver jewellery, she gives a thoughtful and critical perspective to her job, but she's also fun.

Aside from shelved criminal law manuals, her boardroom with its black-patterned glass divider, displays a dozen unopened red wine bottles.

"Oh my God, that is such a bad look," she laughs of the wine, which are leftover from her office opening.

She's quick to note it's the beach and her children that consume her downtime, as well as retail therapy.

"Shopping is probably one of my stress reliefs; I'm terrible," she winces.

"Oh look what Kate's sent me," she acts in mock surprise, referring to courier deliveries from iconic designer Kate Sylvester.

"It's a little running joke in the office."

Humour is needed in a stressful job. Her team is currently preparing for a trial, which isn't until June 2019 but which is already proving to be a lot of work.

The case is centred around New Zealand's largest-ever cocaine bust, known as Operation Heracles.

A five-month inquiry by Customs and police uncovered 46kg of the drug at an address in Mount Maunganui last year, and four men were arrested.

Investigations showed that a cocaine shipment worth $20 million was offloaded from a commercial ship near Tauranga.

The case was nearly transferred to Auckland, but that was opposed by the defendants, which pleased Pollett.

"I think that it is quite important for our community, that if our port is being utilised for the importation of illicit drugs, that these people are tried in the community it affects," she says.

"I think that it is quite important for our community, that if our port is being utilised for the importation of illicit drugs, that these people are tried in the community it affects," she says.

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At age 42, Anna Pollett is the youngest of 17 Crown solicitors in New Zealand, six of whom are female Photo / George Novak.
At age 42, Anna Pollett is the youngest of 17 Crown solicitors in New Zealand, six of whom are female Photo / George Novak.

Her working space for trial preparation is a funky, modern, upstairs open-plan office on Tauranga's Willow St, decorated with rugs, leather furniture and art.

The centrepiece has to be her jumbo boardroom meeting table, aka a refashioned silvery aeroplane wing surrounded by 12 swivel chairs.

Above it sits a flat screen TV with video link, allowing prosecutors to be remotely available, and connect to out-of-town courtrooms.

Small dogs are welcome at the Crown solicitor's office, where two staffers bring their pups to work.

Pollett has been a prosecutor for 15 years and her longest running trial, a drug operation, ran for three months, with her closing address to the jury taking five days.

"It was memorable for its length, its complexity, and sleepless nights," she recalls, describing her style in court as thorough.

Her prosecutions must be carefully deconstructed and annotated, with some cases slower to fade from memory than others.

She tells the story of the 2017 jailing of Hoani Chase, an Eastern Bay of Plenty self-styled Mongrel Mob president, who terrorised and intimidated a woman over 16 years.

"She was a smart, intelligent woman with so much promise who had been unintentionally been caught up in gang culture after a one night stand," Pollett says of the victim. "What followed was probably the worst family violence I have seen, in which the victim survived."

The murder of pregnant Auckland woman Rae Portman in 2012 is another memorable case, and stands out for its long narrative and trial.

Furthermore, sexual abuse cases are hard to forget.

Pollett pauses, reflectively. "Multi-complainant historical sex trials are incredibly challenging to prosecute, but equally, they often become ones you recall and remember."

It is a privilege, she says, to work alongside and help victims and witnesses of crime.

"Where there has been a homicide, family of the deceased are very interested in the court process, so often you'll meet them very early on.

"You're dealing with the sensitivities of others people's lives, and being empathetic to them, and making the process through the criminal justice system one that is the easiest it can be."

"You're dealing with the sensitivities of others people's lives, and being empathetic to them, and making the process through the criminal justice system one that is the easiest it can be."

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She feels her job as Crown solicitor is made easier by the fact Tauranga and Whakatāne boast an experienced, senior police team.

Tauranga Police Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Turner, manager of investigations in the Western Bay of Plenty, says police have an "outstanding" relationship with Pollett, and her team.

"She fights strenuously for our victims, and she has a great, engaging personality, which puts victims, survivors and witnesses at ease," he says. "She is (also) very skilled at cross- examination and getting the truth from reluctant or obstructive witnesses.

"She fights strenuously for our victims, and she has a great, engaging personality, which puts victims, survivors and witnesses at ease."

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"Quite frankly, I couldn't do my job without her assistance," Turner says.

Detective Inspector Mark Loper, in charge of the Western and Eastern Bay of Plenty Police, agrees the approachable Pollett has made a "dramatic" impact in the almost-14 months she's been Crown solicitor. "I cannot speak more highly about her," he says.

She was raised in the Wellington suburb of Khandallah, and didn't know she wanted to be a lawyer until she began work straight after high school.

After studying, she gained a job at Meredith Connell in Auckland, eventually working in crime alongside some of the best advocates in the country.

"To be working for the Crown for that period of time when Simon Moore was the Crown solicitor really enabled women with children to work, and continue their careers."

Affectionately known as "Polly", she returned to work soon after the birth of both of her children and recalls her eldest child accompanying her to a client meeting at four weeks old.

While Pollett scribed notes, former Meredith Connell partner and now Mount Maunganui resident, Ross Burns, sat beside her cradling her daughter.

"I was tired, but you don't really notice the tiredness, you just get it done," she says with her powerhouse attitude.

At the time she was doing it tough.

Her then fiance, and now husband and private investigator, Terry Reardon, an Auckland Police detective and the father of her two children, resigned from the force after an affair with a woman that he arrested on drugs charges.

The private background to their relationship is long and complicated, and Pollett says they have now moved on from the 2006 controversy, which became public. They got engaged in Paris in 2016 (she wears an antique French ring) and married in Fiji this June.

Pollett and her two children moved to Tauranga in 2015, and she initially worked with Greg Hollister-Jones leading the criminal team at Hollister-Jones Lellman, before joining him in partnership after 18 months' at the firm.

She then put her hand up for the Crown solicitor job, which is an appointment made by the Attorney-General, on a recommendation by the Solicitor-General.

She says it was a "great honour" to be a relatively young female lawyer applying for the role, which happened before the signing of the Gender Equality Charter by Crown Law, which properly promotes the advancement of female lawyers.

"It's certainly been a role that hand on heart, I've always enjoyed getting up in the morning for," she says.

"There is always more to contribute in our criminal justice system, and that is what drives me. It is the interface between the law and our people that makes it the most enjoyable."