Three years ago, he helped to jail British backpacker Grace Millane's killer, rising at 4.30am on the day he delivered his closing address to the jury.
Brian Dickey (Ngāti Māhanga) recalls: "I didn't sleep that well. My wife was away and only our youngest was at home."
As Auckland Crown solicitor (Te Rōia Matua a Te Karauna ki Tāmaki Makaurau), he is the only Māori in that position in a New Zealand city and is responsible for prosecuting all serious crimes in this area. He has also led law firm MC (formerly Meredith Connell) in a new direction into contestable government and private commercial litigation after specialising in prosecuting white-collar cases.
In 2019, with colleagues Robin McCoubrey and Litia Tuiburelevu, Dickey successfully prosecuted Jesse Kempson, sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.
"It was a pretty affecting case, not because of its forensic difficulties but for its prominence in the public consciousness in New Zealand and the United Kingdom," says Dickey. "As much as you try to get out of that, you are affected by it. You carry the weight of public concern."
Public reaction to the trial was "pretty emotionally charged," he recalls. "It does impact you."
Dickey, born in Waikato, is of Māori, Irish and Croatian descent. He's Catholic, a rugby and league fan, horse racing enthusiast, "terrible golfer", father of three and chairman of MC.
Although proud, he is somewhat self-conscious of his whakapapa, being largely disconnected from it "and being seen as white. I have not experienced the prejudice and struggle of others."
MC aims to have 20 per cent of its Crown prosecutors reach a conversational level of te reo Māori by next year and Dickey starts in court with his mihi.
A Herald list of top criminal barristers this year noted that Dickey has overseen some of the country's biggest prosecutions.
He was appointed to his role in 2015 after former Crown solicitor Simon Moore became a High Court judge.
Before then, Dickey specialised in tackling white-collar crimes, particularly those arising after the global financial crisis, as well as commercial litigation: South Canterbury Finance's Allan Hubbard for running an unregulated mortgage lending business (there was no trial because Hubbard died before it could proceed); the Feltex five criminal trial; Five Star Finance; Bridgecorp and Rod Petricevic.
He's had some major wins, most famously lately the Grace Millane and constable Matthew Hunt murder trials.
Dickey was described by Justice Moore as having a "rare brilliance" as a prosecutor. He has appeared in at least 30 murder trials, 230 District Court trials, more than 100 High Court trials and has been before the Court of Appeal numerous times.
Before becoming Auckland Crown solicitor, he was a Crown prosecutor for more than 25 years.
Dickey is now overseeing the Serious Fraud Office's prosecution of three former CBL Insurance executives in a trial expected to begin next year.
His paternal grandfather was an inaugural pupil at Dilworth School and a Waihi goldminer. His Māori/Irish school-teaching father was Ron Dickey, his mother is Gladys Dickey (nee Matijasevich). Her family were and mostly still are Croatian migrant dairy farmers in the Thames Valley.
There were no legal connections in the wider family.
He went to country schools in Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Thames Valley. They moved around because his father was a primary school teacher and headmaster. He has described himself as a traditional Catholic schoolboy, playing a form of rugby through school and into university. He loved English, history and debating at school. Law was what you did if you couldn't do maths or science, he reckons.
He was drawn to prosecuting when he scored a job after Victoria University with Davys Burton, then the Crown solicitors in Rotorua.
He led his first High Court trial aged 23 and his first murder trial in 2002.
Dickey followed what he calls the well-beaten OE track in his early 20s, through southeast Asia, Thailand, eastern and western Europe, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, landing in London to do fill-in legal work to make ends meet.
Asked how he got to MC, Dickey jokes: "It was July 1994, and I was returning from the UK and had broken up with my long-standing girlfriend who was resident in Wellington, and consequently it wasn't a welcoming place at the time. She now lives in Auckland and we have been married for 24 years and have three sons who attended St Peter's College in Epsom." That, he says, is the best boys' school "but I'm biased, having just come off six years on the board".
After joining MC in 1994, he became a partner in 2000 and is now chair, having led the business in a new direction: "In 2009/2010, we instigated the general litigation group to consolidate and advance litigation outside the core Crown areas," he says.
It had been "enormously successful with now, around 80 per cent of MC's caseload not core government work".
Friends include business leader Michael Stiassny, political commentator Matthew Hooton and TV personality John Campbell - fellow "honorary Westmerians", as Dickey calls them - who "have various combination catch-ups at dinner or drinks". He enjoys the diversity of thought and humour.
He owns a bach at Waipū Cove, a house in Westmere and he and his wife bought two Wellington places for their sons to live in while they studied at Vic.
Asked if he would ever become a judge, Dickey has previously said it wasn't something he was presently contemplating, wondering if he was judge material and recognising it as a great honour for those who served.
• Born: Cambridge, July 27, 1967
• Age: 54
• Wife: Lawyer Roanna Gravit
• Children: Three sons went to the Catholic St Peter's College, Epsom and Victoria University - Marcus, 24, a lawyer; Joe, 22, a recruitment consultant; and Bruno 19, second year at Victoria
• Tertiary education: Graduated LLB from Victoria University, 1990
• Career: worked with prosecutors in Whangārei, Hamilton and Tauranga; a year's OE in London; joined MC (previously Meredith Connell) in 1994, becoming a partner 2000
• 2015: Appointed Auckland Crown solicitor
• Last film watched: The Power of the Dog
• Last trip overseas: Japan, March 2020
• Last books read: The Last Spy by Alex Gerlis; Saving Sophie by Ronald H. Balson and a factual account of Germany after World War II