Old Boy of the Year

The Old Boy of the year is Sir Patrick Mahony – SPC Silverstream 1950 to 1953

Left to right, nephew Sean, Judge Patrick Mahony and his sons Tom and Ged.

Sir Patrick has been a major contributor to the life of both of our Colleges. He fully epitomises the qualities of a Patrician through his significant commitment to both Colleges and to the wider New Zealand Community. He has walked the talk and has lived “the Marist Principles” in all of his actions both professionally and within his communities. Sir Patrick was a highly regarded and sought after member of the judiciary on an international scale and was regarded as a world thought leader on family law and he championed child protection globally. Sir Patrick chaired the SPC Town Board of Trustees and devoted himself to the betterment of this College. In retirement after working in the Family Court, he continued to serve and contribute as a member of the Parole Board and throughout his life served in many capacities.

Judge Sir David Carruthers wrote of Sir Patrick in the following terms:

Re: Sir Patrick Mahony

I’ve been asked to send to you a letter regarding Sir Patrick Mahony which sets out something of his career and contribution to New Zealand and beyond in the areas which he has worked in over his life time.

I’ve been involved with him as a Family Court Judge since 1985 and as a friend over all of that time as well; and I am able to tell you a good deal about what he has contributed from my own experience and observations.

I did not know Sir Patrick prior to being appointed to Family Court Judge but I have subsequently learned some of the matters which you will no doubt know yourself.

He was Proxime Accessit in his final year at St Patricks College Silverstream; he was described as one of an outstanding group of law students at Victoria University. Indeed in a farewell speech at a farewell dinner for the Judge on his retirement as Principal Family Court Judge in 2004 the Right Hon. Sir Ivan Richardson referred to the fact that in 1969 the Judge was co-author of an essay on “allowable deductions” under the Estate and Gift Duties Act 1968 and he said Typical of Pat the essay focusses not just on case law but also on questions of principle and policy and practical issues”. “It is succinct and clearly expressed it stills stands the test of time.”

He had a stellar career at the Bar. He joined a very well-known law firm in Wellington and was largely involved in Corporate law. He became a recognised expert on construction law and contracts. He was renowned as a negotiator and arbitrator.

In 1978 he accepted an appointment on to the Bench in Auckland and he was one of the original appointees to the new Family Court with all the excitement of its pioneering works.

It’s impossible now to describe those very exciting days. The new Family Court set up in 1981 was the result of an enormous number of submissions and representations to the Royal Commission on the Courts and brought with it a whole fresh look about the way in which to deal successfully and sensitively with family problems.

In 1985 Sir Patrick was appointed Principal Family Court Judge following Sir Peter Trapski and set about continuing and promoting the reform of family law both in New Zealand and Australia and elsewhere./P>

His experience with the Family Courts over this period was exceptional. He was highly sought after as a speaker throughout New Zealand for obvious reasons, but he was also highly sought after for the same reasons in Australia where he formed a close friendship with the Chief Justice of the Family Court and Senior Family Court Judges there. Those close ties which were pioneered and developed by him were of enormous benefit to New Zealand and to other jurisdictions. Sir Patrick spoke at Family Court Law Conferences all around the world but particularly in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and America about the changes and new approach involving collaboration with the legal profession and specialists in family law, pioneering mediation and case management and continuing education for the Judges. He was also a leader in the development of a response to domestic violence and a leader both nationally and internationally in implementing the Hague Convention on child abduction cases.

So over the very long period that Sir Patrick was Principal Family Court Judge in this country he not only continued to develop family law in his characteristic thoughtful and principled way but he also ensured that the new ideas were transported to other countries where similar movements were beginning to take place but lacked the leadership and vision that New Zealand was fortunate to gain.

At the same time he sat very regularly as a practising family court judge making sure that his judges were looked after properly, that staff were also fully supported, and that the difficult and complex cases which are inevitable in this jurisdiction maintained impetus and proper oversight.

During this time Sir Patrick was the Chair of the Board of Trustees at St Patricks College in Wellington and of course a devoted father and husband and later grandfather. It must have been a special pleasure to him that his youngest son was Head Boy at the College.

The whole of this period which represented his exceptional contribution to New Zealand and elsewhere in the way that I have briefly described was recognised by his award of the Distinguished Companion of Order of Merit translated subsequently into a well merited Knighthood

After retiring from the Family Court Sir Patrickcontinued to contribute, to his country. He was for some years a memberof the New Zealand Parole Board to which he bought the same principles ofintegrity, calm, efficiency, resoluteness and dedication as he had bought tothe Family Court. This is another very difficult jurisdiction and, veryoften unpopular, but his adherence to principle never wavered.

He also chaired and completed the Confidential Forum for former patients of psychiatric hospitals – work that had begun under the Chairmanship of his friend and fellow Catholic Sir Anand Satyanand.

He had many other achievements along the path. For example he pioneered the Institute of Family Studies at Victoria University which was funded by the McKenzie Trust and is still serving on it at this time. He continued privately and without fuss as was his way to supervise and mentor others at critical times in their careers and work – as I can personally attest.

None of this of course covers his family personal and spiritual life, but it is well known that his devotion to his church and his faith which never wavered and sustained him during the most difficult times. Indeed it could be well said that the motto of St. Patricks College ‘Sectare Fidem’ was also his personal motto. He continues to live it well.

He has a strong sense of justice and fairness and throughout his life was constantly demonstrated the concept of faith in action.

Yours sincerely
Judge Sir David Carruthers

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