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New Zealand’s first ever Chief Coroner, Judge Neil MacLean, has died

Judge Neil MacLean.

Judge Neil MacLean QSO, pictured in 2014.
Photo: RNZ / Lauren Baker

New Zealand’s first ever Chief Coroner, Judge Neil MacLean QSO, has been remembered by former colleagues after his death.

Judge MacLean began his law career in 1967 before becoming the first Chief Coroner in 2007.

He died on Friday.

Two of the most notable events of his career included working with the families of the Pike River mine explosion victims and the families of those who died in the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

A media statement released by the Office of the Chief Coroner said Judge MacLean was also a “strong advocate for improved reporting and more open discussions on suicide”.

“He frequently appeared in the media to discuss matters such as youth suicide, cyber bullying, and solvent abuse, and to ensure the public were aware of the work of the Coroners Court.”

Former Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall said Judge MacLean showed outstanding leadership in creating a full time professional coronial bench.

“He fostered excellent working relationships with key stakeholders including ESR, the police and health professionals.”

Coroner Peter Ryan said Judge MacLean always had compassion and empathy for the grieving families he worked with.

“Also, I appreciated the way he engaged with the members of the bench and involved us in the setting up of the new service.”

Coroner Sue Johnson, who worked with Judge MacLean to write the benchbook for coroners, said he did an “extraordinary amount of work” to update an old system.

“Judge MacLean was very wise, and I learned a great deal from him and felt privileged to have worked with him, but also to have gotten to know him as a very jolly, warm, friendly and kind gentleman.”

Judge MacLean worked in the legal profession from 1972 until 1993 when he became a district court judge.

He was made a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order in 2015 for his services to the judiciary.

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