New Plymouth judge Robert Murfitt has all the hallmarks of his profession. He's balding, bespectacled. His tie, a perfectly knotted Windsor, matches the neatly ironed shirt, his just-so creased trousers are belted. He wears polished leather shoes.
Dig below the proper exterior, however, and justice Murfitt-style is anything but conservative.
Take the 17-year-old who came before him on a disorderly behaviour charge. When Judge Murfitt heard he was keen to join the Army, he sent him off on a 5km run.
If you're back in under an hour, he said, I'll let you off.
Forty-five minutes later the young offender was back in the Hawera Courthouse red-faced and puffing.
"I hope you didn't hitch-hike," responded Murfitt, before discharging the youth.
Then there was Matthew Koch, in court last week for pulling wheelies in front of the local cops.
In Koch's case, however, it wasn't the sentence but Murfitt's comments that created headlines.
Wagging a little finger at Koch, he suggested his behaviour might say something about his manhood.
Koch was fined $800 and disqualified from driving for six months.
Murfitt, 58, gained his law degree from Canterbury University in 1971 and was admitted to the bar the following year. He was appointed a Family Court judge in 2004, and currently juggles that commitment with district and youth court duties.
The Sensible Sentencing Trust has been critical of Murfitt's "liberal" leanings after sentencing Briar Dravitiski, a 23-year-old caught having sex with a 13-year-old boy to 240 hours' community work.
But his offbeat courtroom manner, along with an ability to relate to the young offenders he deals with, has earned him widespread respect.
Said defence lawyer Paul Keegan, who was in court the day of the now-infamous running incident: "Everything he does is pretty appropriate. Sending the youngster on the run was a fitting solution. It demonstrated the kid's willingness to take what he had done seriously."
Murfitt had a finely-honed sense of humour which was a "real tonic" in what were often quite tense situations, Keegan said.
The judge is also held in high regard by police.
"He certainly thinks outside the square, but we don't object to that," police prosecutor Sergeant Malcolm Greig said. "He tailors sentences as much as he can to suit the offender and the offence, and it works."
Murfitt abhors the system of preventative detention that doesn't allow for rehabilitation - but is at pains to avoid being labelled too unusual. He describes himself as a "lateral thinker".
"I have to administer the law and apply punishment. Part of that process has to look at opportunities for rehabilitation. If, in administering a punishment I can also achieve some rehabilitation that makes it less likely they'll reappear in court, then I'll go for that.
"We have young people who owe huge infringement fees for things which are at the lowest end of criminality - things like parking on double yellow lines, licensing offences - who have no ability to pay. They get commuted to community work, and if they don't attend that they can go to jail. What you are doing is sending people to the university of crime for quite trivial things."
Interestingly, Murfitt is a strong advocate of old-fashioned discipline.
Young offenders, he says, often make "idiotic mistakes" not through any inherent badness but because of immaturity or peer pressure.
"I regret... the abolition of compulsory military training. In many cases there has been a lack of parental discipline. I'm very aware that youths in particular - and that's males up until about their mid 20s - have had a lack of boundaries to guide what is acceptable behaviour and what is not."
Of particular value was the district's remand contract scheme which sees offenders agree to undertake some form of training in lieu of an orthodox penalty.
Several youngsters who completed a six-week Limited Service Volunteer course at Burnham Military Cam went on to join the army, while START, a locally run "brat camp" which put at-risk youth through an Outward Bound-style course in the Taranaki backblocks had an impressive success rate, Murfitt said.
"They are world leaders in their ability to divert young people away from reoffending... Within two weeks the kids have sweated out their booze problem, their cannabis problem. Their recovery rate is close to 70 per cent. Across the Western world there has been nothing better than 50 per cent."
Murfitt was born in New Plymouth but spent most of his adult life in Christchurch, specialising in litigation before moving into family law.
"That was a deliberate decision. To represent children is a very satisfying thing."
His own three children have helped him in his career, albeit not always in the way he might have wanted: "I do think having teenagers is an important training ground for judicial work," he says, tongue firmly in cheek.
And what does this less-than-ordinary judge do when he's not in chambers?
"I play golf. Badly. I enjoy classical music and opera. And I play tennis."
Telling it like it is - Murfitt-speak
"The self-help measures you employed are understandable." To Eddie John Shepherd, 33, discharged without conviction after taking a cymbal from his neighbour's drum kit following constant problems with noise.
"It is important that you have the opportunity to start again with a clean slate ... Get on with your life." To 22-year-old Carl Awhiti, who had $12,000 worth of driving fines wiped in exchange for completing 150 hours' community work during sentencing on an assault charge.
"You are becoming a pain in the neck and you have to stop doing this," Murfitt tells Lynette Shirley Kerr, appearing in court after her ninth bomb hoax, which forced the evacuation of a supermarket, in September. He ordered Kerr, sentenced to 10 weeks' jail earlier in the year for similar offences, to come up for sentencing if called upon within nine months.
"Your life with the complainant has been a difficult one ... Find a guy who is not so hard to live with - they are around somewhere." Advice to Karyn Lynette Tior Robb, 52, who was discharged without conviction for slapping her partner during a domestic dispute.
"You and the others involved really partied like a bunch of pigs ..." Describing the behaviour of a group of 12 drunken youths who trashed a hut in Egmont National Park, causing almost $3000 worth of damage. Three of them were each ordered to pay $600 for their share of the damage and to complete 100 hours' community work.