Tentative steps have been taken to resolve a niggling dispute between Travis Cooper, whose company leases the historic listed Hurunui Hotel in North Canterbury, and its owner and neighbour, Rodger Strong (CaseLoad December 5, 2014).

CaseLoaders will recall how the 25th anniversary celebrations of the men-only BLC Movement were marred by the unhelpful vibe created by a long-running feud between publican Travis and landlord Rodger - who not so long ago opened a licensed cafe, cottages and campervan park next door to the pub.

As CaseLoad reported earlier, the ins and outs of the conflict are complex and deep-seated, with each side taking pot shots at the other.

Travis feels threatened by Rodger's competition and Rodger would, no doubt, be happy if Travis cleared off.


Their wrangle reached the Christchurch High Court where Rodger sought cancellation of Travis' lease and possession of the pub - accusing Travis of breaching his lease by failing to redecorate the place.

Travis opposed his lease cancellation, saying it was not a matter of refusing to redecorate but a question of reaching agreement with Rodger as to what redecoration was required before he could comply with his lease conditions.

To shorten a long story, Justice David Gendall - who one observer reckoned might have known more about the pub's conviviality than he let on - found Travis was in breach of his lease and it was serious.

What effectively saved Travis from getting the heave was news of the existence of a conditional contract for the sale of the hotel business to pub employee Kim Williams for $242,000, including $70,000 for intangible assets.

Apparently, Williams and her partner are genuine and keen buyers of the business, subject to completing due diligence, obtaining finance and obtaining Rodger's consent to the assignment of the lease.

If the lease was cancelled Travis would lose the possibility of a sale to Williams for $242,000.

In these circumstances, and only by a "relatively fine margin," Justice Gendall said it would be disproportionate to the redecoration dispute if the "draconian step of cancelling the lease were to be taken".

So, by way of a life-line and to make sure he gets on with the job, the judge ordered Travis to pay $50,000 to Rodger's lawyer as security to redecorate and to have a full redecoration of the interior and exterior of the pub done by August 12.

If Travis fails to comply he loses the pub, which would be sad, because in CaseLoad's view he has worked hard to make the Hurunui the best country pub in New Zealand - and that's a fact.

Judge duo spotted in park caper

Sightings of a pair of High Court judges earnestly engaged in curious extra-judicial activity in Auckland Domain are confirmed.

"There's an innocent explanation and the public have nothing to fear," said a senior judicial communications officer (name always withheld by request).

CaseLoad has it on the best authority that Their Reconnoitering Honours - identified as Justices Tim "Little Corporal" Brewer and Simon "D*nny Br*sh" Moore - are in pre-season training for the recently-revived Judges v Queen's Counsel Hot Poker Challenge.

These once-popular and fiercely contested public trials of endurance, legal acumen and general pig-headedness were abandoned when the gentler gender were allowed in.

It didn't help that the finely engraved Golden Poker Trophy disappeared into the carry-on baggage of a prominent jurist bound for the Privy Council, never to be seen again.

Faded newspaper clippings displayed under security glass on the Ladies & Escorts Lounge reading leaner describe how large crowds once assembled in Albert Park to witness the final gut-wrenching stages of the Herculean challenge.

What creaky judges lost to young thruster QCs, they made up in rat-like cunning - shifting the Legal-Tome-Tossing finish line and mixing up their patent leather prancing boots.

QC's fought back by blunting Jim the Judge's Barber's scissors and gluing judicial longbottoms together.

"I can confirm that Justices Brewer and Moore have been practising knee-bending exercises for the All-Comers Pinstripe and Brolly 100-Yard Stroll from Her Majesty's Courts to The Northern Club," said Our Man At The Bar, assuming his traditional role as Maker of the Book.

"We're goers for the Hop and Step, provided there's a Jump in it," said A Pair Of Mature Lady Briefs.

"Someone's for the high jump," said The Scunner.

Watch this space.

Purloined or borrowed? More on puzzling pushbike case

Observers who claim to know all about this sort of thing say the Great Pushbike Case - in which the police allege a fellow "did steal a pushbike valued at $100" - will stand or fall on whether Mr Plod can prove the bloke intended to permanently deprive the owner of his bike. (CaseLoad June 26).

If the chap simply borrowed it for a while with the intention of returning it after a harmless spin round the park, could this then be another mind-straining puzzler for the Supreme Court?

What's a wee bit between judges?

Soon-to-be-sworn-in new High Court judge Nick Davidson (CaseLoad June 26) was quick to remind CaseLoad by email that he is not merely 66 years old, but "66 and a bit..."

Which shows folk that after 66, your bit can take on greater significance...

In reply to Show me the Money, of Palmerston North

The photographs you sent from a recent legal conference purporting to show Queen's Counsel bouncing a well-known playful judge on a blanket by the pool, failed to name everyone.

Full identifying details are required before publication is ensured.

And for future reference, up-skirt snaps - while a huge hoot when passed around chaps in the Dungeon Room - are inappropriate for a slavering public.

CaseLoad suggests you discuss that particular exclusive photographic art essay with the Editor of the next edition of the High Court Judges' Big Blue Chambers Book.

Popular QC's bad run continues

The Court of Appeal wasn't much taken by 52-year old ex-stockbroker and options trader Gregory Alan Arnott's appeal - advanced by Queen's Counsel Paul Dacre - against a six-year jail term for multimillion-dollar dishonesty.

Through Dacre, Arnott reckoned District Court judge Robbie Ronayne's penalty starting point of seven years was excessive and a 5 per cent discount given in recognition of various mitigating personal circumstances was inadequate.

In what, for the court, was a short three-and-a-bit page decision, Justices Rhys Harrison, Pamela Andrews and Murray Gilbert shot down Dacre's case.

The judges disagreed with Dacre, ruling that the seven-year starting point was justified and Judge Ronayne's approach conformed with the correct sentencing approach.

They then put paid to Dacre's assertion that the allowance given Arnott for mitigating factors was inadequate.

While modest, they reckoned the allowance did not lead to a manifestly excessive sentence: Appeal dismissed.

Friends say Dacre is still a bit tender after making a serious error in the botched prosecution of former Act MP and Auckland Mayor John Banks (CaseLoad June 12).

Acting for the Crown at Banks' first appeal, Dacre failed to tell the Court of Appeal of the existence of a crucial memorandum he had, which was also not disclosed to Banks' lawyers.

The upshot resulted in the Court of Appeal declaring a miscarriage of justice, and acquitting Banks without the need for a retrial (CaseLoad May 29).

The court recalled its earlier judgment, saying there was a serious error of process, but one it accepted was attributable to an error of judgment rather than misconduct.

Next time

An exclusive peek at what judges do while waiting for jury verdicts...