Whanganui Crown prosecutor Lance Rowe has been appointed an acting District Court judge.

Mr Rowe told the Chronicle yesterday the new position was "exciting and daunting".

There is a limit on how many permanent District Court Judges there can be at a time, so acting judges are appointed for judiciary cover. There is no limit to how many acting judges there can be.

Mr Rowe will hold the position until March 2019, and hopes to move onto a permanent judge position. He has a jury warrant, meaning he can hold jury trials, among other things.


Mr Rowe has been Crown solicitor in Whanganui at Armstrong Barton since 2008, and before that worked as a defence lawyer.

He is also chairman of the Life to the Max Trust, a programme which engages with children and their families to prevent offending in the Whanganui community.

Now his appointment has been announced, Mr Rowe cannot appear in court "effective immediately", and will no longer be acting as a lawyer.

"I've got mixed feelings obviously because I've really enjoyed being a prosecutor.

"The thing I've enjoyed most about prosecuting has been connections with the community. It's one thing I really like about the district court. It's very much the community court . . . it's the court of the people."

Mr Rowe will be based in Palmerston North, because he has acted as a lawyer in Whanganui for too long to safely be a judge here.

Sitting in Whanganui, he runs the risk of having connections with defendants or witnesses. He may return occasionally as a visiting judge, but would have to make sure he was not connected to key people in cases.

"I will be sad to not be working in Whanganui . . . and I'm going to really miss my firm."

Mr Rowe said he would miss the lawyers and police in Whanganui, as well as staff at Whanganui District Court, who he described as "absolute gems".

Despite his new title, Mr Rowe hopes people will still feel comfortable speaking to him normally outside court.

"I threatened one person that if they called me 'Your Honour' outside the courtroom, I would hold them in contempt," he said.

"It's obviously an important position, but you don't want to stop being a person."

Mr Rowe will be sworn in on June 9 in Whanganui.