James Rapley QC

James Profile

Qualifications: LLB, LLM (Hons)
Admitted: July 1990

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Phone: +64 3 964 8000
Mobile: +64 27 5600 707
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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P.O. Box 3180
Christchurch 8140

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In May 2004, James commenced practice as a Barrister after working as a senior prosecutor for the Serious Fraud Office and Crown Solicitor’s Office for nearly ten years.  James was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 2018.

James specialises in criminal defence litigation and has appeared as counsel in the District and High Courts on numerous high profile trials involving serious fraud, drug, murder, sexual crimes and other crimes of violence.  He is also highly experienced in regulatory prosecutions (Animal Welfare, Health & Safety & Tax) brought by entities such as the Ministry for Primary Industries, IRD and the Department of Internal Affairs.

To date James has conducted over 145 criminal jury trials. He has appeared in over 35 Court of Appeal hearings as appellate counsel and has been appointed by the District and High Courts as amicus curiae, most notabling in 2016 for the WINZ double homicide trial of one of New Zealand's most notorious killers (R v Tully).  James has also been appointed by the Supreme Court to assist the court and carry out independent enquiries on its behalf (Rolleston v R [2020] NZSC 113) .  During 2011 - 2012 James was counsel in the Royal Commission hearings on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy and the Canterbury Earthquakes.

In 2011 James was approached by Thomson Reuters to co-author a legal text with Judge Tony Willy.  This exciting addition to New Zealand’s legal literature is titled Advocacy and was launched in March 2013. http://www.thomsonreuters.co.nz/Search?keyword=advocacy. In the foreward to Advocacy NZ Supreme Court Judge, Sir William Young J said he "commended the authors for the completeness of the exercise, their thoughtful analysis of the issues, the liveliness and readability of the text and, most significantly, the very substantial practical utility of their advice." Advocacy has received glowing reviews from senior members of the bar http://my.lawsociety.org.nz/in-practice/the-changing-law/legal-publications/book-review-advocacy-by-anthony-willy-and-james-rapley

James teaches Trial Advocacy at both the University of Canterbury in Christchurch and the University of South Pacific in Port Vila, Vanuatu.  In 2017 and 2020 James was asked to teach at the Australian Bar Association Advanced Trial Advocacy Intensive in Sydney and Melbourne.

In 2012 James became a member of the Legal Services Advisory Board.  The Board provides high level strategic advice to the Secretary for Justice when considering the provision of legal aid and community legal services.

James established the mentoring committee to assist young practitioners in Christchurch and has been both vice-president and president of the Canterbury Criminal Bar Association.  James is a member of the New Zealand Law Society Criminal Law Committee (2013 - ) and was a member of the Lawyers Standards Committee for six years (2013 - 2019).  He has been a faculty member of the NZLS Litigation Skills course since 2006 and was its Deputy Director in 2019.  James has been on the faculty for NZLS Advanced Litigation Skills course since 2019.  He has been the Deputy Chair of the NZBA Advocacy Training Committe since 2017 and is the Criminal Stream Director for NZBA Mastering Advocacy Programme.  James has been active in promoting restorative justice and for five years was a Trustee on the Board of Restorative Justice Services Ōtautahi  (2014 - 2019).