13 Dec 2022

Lawyer Sue Grey released from custody after being accused of contempt of court

5:22 pm on 13 December 2022
Lawyer Sue Grey is representing the Great Barrier Island groups.

Sue Grey in court in July 2019. Photo: RNZ / Michael Cropp

Prominent anti-vaccination lawyer Sue Grey has been released from custody in Nelson after earlier being stood down by a judge for contempt of court.

Last week, Grey represented the parents of Baby W in the High Court as they fought to use unvaccinated blood during their child's heart surgery.

At a hearing in the Nelson District Court this afternoon, Judge Tony Zohrab said Grey was taken into custody for disruptive behaviour at an earlier court appearance for Golden Bay man, Mad Cafe owner Kelvin McKenney, also known as NgAng.

It is understood McKenney was representing himself in a judge alone trial on charges relating to an alcohol license for his cafe.

By way of explanation, Grey told Judge Zohrab while McKenney had obtained some legal advice on the recommendation of the court, he had some difficulty understanding it and the court processes.

"In my analogy sir it is somewhat like a Russian person speaking to a Chinese person in that they don't understand each other."

Lawyer Sue Grey (centre), who is also an anti-vaccine campaigner, outside the Nelson District Court on 13 December 2022, after Judge Zohrab ordered her to be removed from court after ongoing disruption.

Sue Grey (centre), who is also an anti-vaccine campaigner, outside the Nelson District Court with Kelvin McKenney (left wearing hat) who she said she was supporting. Photo: RNZ / Samantha Gee

Grey said she was trying to raise issues about McKenney's case with the judge when she was removed from the court.

"I'm sorry your honour if it caused offence to you or if it disrupted with your thinking in any way, I appreciate and empathise with Your Honour, the difficult situation the court is in sometimes, but I was endeavouring to act in accordance with my duties to the court and putting forward what I could do in the circumstances for this defendant."

Judge Zohrab questioned what Grey was apologising for and she said she was shaken and had been sitting in a custody freezing for several hours.

"I don't know what I am apologising for to be honest Your Honour sir, but any inconvenience to anybody that was caused by what happened today."

Judge Zohrab told Grey she was not acting for McKenney and had continued talking over him and arguing with him.

"I told you I didn't need to hear from you on those points, I told you in simple language politely, that I didn't need to hear from you in those points and you continued on."

When he stood her down in custody, Judge Zohrab said McKenney's 40 or so supporters erupted into what was "virtually a riot".

"You demonstrated a lack of professional judgement in the manner in which you dealt with matters today and arguably those matters bear on the issue of your fitness to practice as a lawyer."

Judge Zohrab referred the audio and video recordings and a transcript of the submissions to the Law Society for consideration of whether it raised issues professional conduct.

He said given the period of time spent in custody and the referral to the Law Society, he saw no reason to take further action under the Contempt of Court Act.