Wednesday October 24, 2018
Wednesday, 07 February 2018 07:10

Judge Martin Beattie, notorious for expenses fraud case, dies in Auckland

District Court Judge Martin Beattie died on Sunday at age 74. District Court Judge Martin Beattie died on Sunday at age 74. Stuff

A former district court and ACC tribunal judge who was subject to a high-profile legal case of his own has died at the age of 74.

Judge Martin Beattie became notorious in 1997, when he refused to resign despite widespread condemnation for filing false expenses claims worth $10,000.

Beattie argued he had made an honest mistake, and a jury cleared him of fraud, but then-justice minister Doug Graham along with many of Beattie's colleagues called for him to step down.

His decision to to stay caused media to dub him 'the hardest judicial hide in the Western world'.

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Beattie was a nephew of former Governor-General Sir David Beattie, and attended Westlake Boys High School on Auckland's North Shore.

He had three children of his own and three step-children.

While working as a circuit judge throughout Northland in the 1990s, Beattie claimed accommodation expenses for nights he spent at home as well as travel expenses to get home.

This led to him being charged with 45 counts of fraud, totalling $10,000.

During the trial in 1997, Beattie's lawyer argued Beattie had believed he was entitled to the expenses whether he stayed in a hotel or not, and had never been advised otherwise.

He pleaded not guilty, the jury agreed, and Beattie kept his job. He did, however, pay back the $10,000.

Another Northland judge, Robert Hesketh, was charged with fraud alongside Beattie. 

He claimed to have the same misunderstanding of the expense system, but chose to plead guilty. At the time, his counsel said Hesketh pleaded guilty as a matter of personal morality.

Hesketh was convicted of fraud and struck off the roll of barristers and solicitors, but widely lauded as a man of integrity. He was re-admitted to the roll two years later and went on to work as a director of human rights proceedings in the Human Rights Commission.

Beattie was transferred to sit on the ACC tribunal after his trial, and received extensive criticism for not resigning.

He died at Epsom's Cromwell House on Sunday, and his funeral will be held on Friday.


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