John Timmins’ funeral this week rekindled memories of how official secrecy still blocks details of the top lawyer and Labour fund raiser’s brutal life-threatening bashing 12 years ago.
More than 400 people are said to have turned out at Auckland’s Langham Hotel on Thursday to farewell Mr Timmins (62), who died on November 24.
He was a major Labour fund raiser and close friend of Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark, who, along with then police commissioner Rob Robinson, took a close interest in the case.
Mr Timmins, a successful commercial barrister, suffered severe brain damage and never returned to work after being beaten, kicked and left for dead in an Onehunga back street in 2000.
Mystery and official secrecy continues to surround the circumstances of the bizarre attack, with Justice Peter Salmon being told at the time neither Mr Timmins nor his attacker, Joshua Wiremu McIsaac (then aged about 27), could remember the event.
McIsaac, a kick boxer and repeat offender who pleaded guilty to injuring Mr Timmins with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and unlawfully taking his black BMW, was jailed for seven years.
The case was unusual from the outset.
No public explanation has ever been given as to why Mr Timmins, who left his office in Auckland’s Fay Richwhite building only minutes from his Epsom home on the eve of taking his wife Julie on a trip to France, should turn up battered and bloodied in Onehunga.
Evidence from some witnesses was permanently suppressed by Justice Salmon, who said it was “irrelevant to the facts upon which the plea of guilty and the subsequent sentence were based”.
Justice Salmon said the interests of privacy outweighed the public interest in disclosure.
Crown solicitor Simon Moore even wanted details of his application for permanent suppression and the fact of the judge’s order to be suppressed, but Justice Salmon would not go that far.
Police did not make public for several days what had happened to Mr Timmins, although colourful gossip was rife throughout the Auckland legal fraternity and among Labour party insiders.
Leading Queen’s counsel, the late John Haigh, was hired by the Timmins family to represent Mr Timmins’ interests.
In an interview after his attacker was jailed, Mr Timmins lashed out at the criminal justice system, describing it as a farce.
He said criminal legal aid cost a fortune and bred manipulation of the system which served no-one’s interests.
The system was defendant-biased, not victim-biased and questioned why his attacker, who took a year to plead guilty, was given a two-year credit for pleading guilty, he said.
At Mr Timmins’ funeral this week retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Ted Thomas spoke of the loss of a talented and highly respected lawyer taken in his prime.