Canterbury Law Review
Gerry Orchard graduated LLB from the University of Canterbury in 1967. He was a brilliant student, and won the Canterbury District Law Society's Gold Medal for the best graduate of his year. He proceeded to take a LLM with first class honours, and in 1968 was awarded a coveted Commonwealth Scholarship to the United Kingdom where he completed a PhD at Nottingham. Canterbury was fortunate to get him back: in 1972 he was appointed to a lectureship in the Law Faculty. He rose rapidly through the ranks, and was appointed to a Chair in 1982. Although at various times he lectured in Administrative Law and the Conflict of Laws, it was in Criminal Law and Evidence Law that he made his reputation. Gerry was unquestionably one of the finest legal minds of his generation. His scholarship was profound. His writing was marked by an encyclopedic knowledge and attention to detail, yet also by clear argument. His contribution to Adams on Criminal Law, the leading text on the subject, was enormous, and his chapter on Homicide in Simester and Brookbanks' Criminal Law text has been described as 'magisterial'. There were also many articles.
He was renowned as a lecturer. He had the two essential attributes -comprehensive knowledge of his subject and an enthusiasm for it. When you coupled those attributes with Gerry's sense of humour and acting ability you had a potent recipe. When they heard of his retirement, many students, past and present, sent messages saying how much they had enjoyed his classes. He did more than his share of administration. He was Dean of the Law Faculty for 13 years from 1989 to 2001, and Head of the Department of Law from 1989 to 1994. He was a student-focused Dean. His door was always open, and students with problems were welcome to see him at any time: he would spend as much time as it took to help them. The most touching of the letters he received on his retirement were from students who recalled his kindness to them in times of trouble. His humanity and constructive assistance benefited many. As a Head of Department he was no autocrat: he led by example, and was a friend and colleague, always ready with wise advice.
He served on Academic Administration Committee for 13 years, was an academic staff representative on Council for 8 years, and a long-time member of Academic Board. Fellow members remember him as a person who spoke only when he had something important to say. He timed his interventions to perfection, and they were always marked by common sense and wisdom. On many occasions he was able to defuse an impasse, or change the course of a meeting which was heading down the wrong track. He could be impatient with unnecessary bureaucracy: he was a man who went straight to the heart of the matter, and who believed in substance rather than form.
He contributed much to the legal community outside the University, and in so doing increased Canterbury's reputation. He made significant contributions to law reform. He was a member of the Government's Criminal Law Reform Committee, and an adviser to the Law Commission. The recent legislation on Bail bears his imprint, and he made a very significant contribution to the Law Commission's Draft Evidence Code. A former President of the Commission described him as a 'national treasure'. He did some practice at the Bar, and appeared in some particularly difficult -and well-known - cases. He contributed to New Zealand Law Society seminars on Criminal Law, and to its annual Litigation Skills programme. He was known by legal practitioners for the same kindness and generosity he showed his students: he would often help them in their preparation of cases with no expectation of payment.
He was great fun. Those who attended Law School morning teas, or social functions at the Staff Club, will recall his story-telling ability and his nice turn of phrase. He enjoyed nothing more than light-hearted conversation with friends and colleagues. He was knowledgeable on sport - in particular rugby - cricket and horse-racing - and always had an opinion on what needed to be done to improve the performance of some team or other. He maintained a life-long interest in acting, although in recent years he confined himself to the occasional cameo appearance in the Annual Law Students' Revue. Gerry had a rare combination of ability, wisdom, kindness and humility. He was a mainstay of the Law Faculty, and the University, for 30 years. The place will change now that he has gone.
(reprinted from the University of Canterbury Chronicle February 20, 2003)