Russell Fairbrother

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Russell Fairbrother

Russell Fairbrother.jpg
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Napier
In office
27 July 2002 – 5 October 2005
Preceded byGeoff Braybrooke
Succeeded byChris Tremain
Personal details
BornCarterton, New Zealand
Political partyLabour

Elwin Russell Fairbrother QC is a lawyer and former New Zealand politician. He was a Labour Party Member of Parliament from 2002 to 2008.

Early years[edit]

Fairbrother, who is commonly known by his middle name,[1] was born into a truck driving family and raised in the Wairarapa town of Carterton.

Before entering politics, Fairbrother was a lawyer for twenty-three years, having obtained an LLB from Victoria University of Wellington. At Victoria, he was a member of the Victoria University of Wellington Debating Society. In 1969 he won the Plunket Medal for Oratory and in 1971 he won the Joynt Scroll for inter university debating. He debated for NZ Universities against a touring Australian University team. He served as president of the Wellington Speaking Union.

He was also president of the Napier branch of Grey Power, a lobby group for the elderly and a past president and then patron of HB Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society.

As a lawyer, he has led the defence in over 100 murder trials and has appeared before the Privy Council in London. In 1994 he successfully defended a murder accused in what has come to be regarded as the world's first Post Traumatic Stress Disorder defence; this case has since formed the basis of a novel by celebrated author Sir James McNeish – "The Crime of Huey Dunstan" published in 2010.

Member of Parliament[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
2002–2005 47th Napier none Labour
2005–2008 48th List 38 Labour

Fairbrother was first elected to Parliament in the 2002 election, replacing long-serving Labour MP Geoff Braybrooke in the Napier seat. In the 2005 general election he was defeated by National's Chris Tremain but was elected as a list MP.

In his first term he was elected chair of the special select committee of the House of Parliament created to examine and report on the Maori Fisheries Act 2004, the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 and the Guardians of Fiordland legislation. He was also one of three government appointments to the special select committee set up to report to Parliament on New Zealand's constitutional arrangements. He was also elected chair of the Labour back bench committee and appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney General.

In his second term he was elected chair of the special sub-committee established to examine and report on the Evidence Act 2006. He was selected by the Prime Minister to travel to and observe East Timor's first domestic democratic election.

After defeating Stuart Nash in a battle to stand in the Napier electorate for Labour, Fairbrother did not stand on Labour's list in the 2008 election.[2] He was unable to win the electorate off Chris Tremain in the 2008 election and, since he was not successful in regaining his seat, he was not returned to parliament.

After politics[edit]

After leaving Parliament, Fairbrother returned to the law. Including acting for Chris Comesky.[3] He successfully secured acquittals in the high-profile murder cases of Zion King,[4] and Wilson Apatu, who had shot a man four times in front of his family, killing him, before carjacking a couple at knifepoint.[5][6] He was the defence lawyer for ex-Dunedin dean Jonathan Kirkpatrick after his NZ$600,000 fraud at the Auckland University of Technology.[7]


  1. ^ "Queen's Counsel appointments since 1907 as at July 2013" (PDF). Crown Law Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 March 2014. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  2. ^ Battle for Napier Archived 19 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine Newstalk ZB, 3 December 2007
  3. ^ Ian Steward. "Lawyer Chris Comeskey suspended".
  4. ^ "Family waiting for justice after suspect freed". One News. 12 May 2010. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  5. ^ "Local, latest and breaking news from the Hawkes Bay region". Hawkes Bay Today. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  6. ^ "Defence lawyer hails jury in murder trial". Radio New Zealand. 23 September 2010. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  7. ^ "Ex-St Paul's dean quits AUT job over missing cash". Otago Daily Times. 30 July 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Geoff Braybrooke
Member of Parliament for Napier
Succeeded by
Chris Tremain