Judge Michael Brown (1937-2015)

Judge Michael Brown dramatically changed the juvenile court system and significantly improved outcomes for individuals and families through his transformational leadership of the youth justice system. He introduced the concept of family conferencing in place of criminal proceedings for serious juvenile offenders, changing the focus from juvenile crime and punishment to restorative justice. His model has been emulated throughout the world.


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Michael, known as Mick, practised law for many years in Auckland before becoming a District Court Judge in 1980, an office he held until 1995. During that time he became the first Principal Youth Court Judge, personally responsible for much of the philosophy and development of the new youth court justice system, which has been emulated throughout the world.

Mick introduced the concept of family conferencing in place of criminal proceedings for serious juvenile offenders, changing the focus from juvenile crime and punishment to restorative justice.

When Mick’s approach was legislated in 1989 and made the standard, it represented a world-first and the impact was positive on many levels. The highly influential model he developed shone a light on significant, often overlooked issues including child poverty and cycles of intergenerational abuse.

In 2001, Mick delivered a landmark report on the workings of Child, Youth and Family that saw many significant changes to the way the department functioned. Mick called for more professional leadership, re-directing existing resources to those areas in greatest need, and working with voluntary sector agencies to establish a more collaborative approach to the management of cases that do not require a statutory response.

Mick served on the University of Auckland Council for 15 years and was Chancellor between 1986 and 1991. He was Pro Vice-Chancellor (Maori) at the University until late in 2005.

He has been a member of various charitable trusts, including the Auckland Cricket Association, the Child Development Foundation of New Zealand, and the Alcohol and Liquor Advisory Council.

With exceptional conviction and unrivalled compassion, Mick has left an indelible and lasting mark on New Zealand’s justice system and is truly one of the country’s most wise and pioneering leaders.

Sadly Mick Brown passed away in early 2015.