New Gisborne Crown Solicitor named

Riki Donnelly is the first locally based appointee to the role in nearly two decades

New Gisborne Crown Solicitor named

Riki Donnelly has been announced as the Crown Solicitor for Gisborne effective 1 July.

According to Solicitor-General Una Jagose KC, Donnelly was selected for the role after a “public and contestable recruitment process”. He is the first locally based appointee to the role in almost two decades.

Donnelly is a native of Tairāwhiti who attended school in Gisborne and is most strongly connected with the iwi and hapū of Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau-a-Rakairoa, and Te Whānau-a-Pokai. His deep understanding of te ao Māori and tikanga is expected to be a valuable asset to the Crown Solicitor Network.

He started his legal career Preston Russell Law in Invercargill, where he worked in the Crown and employment law teams under the leadership of current Invercargill Crown Solicitor Mary-Jane Thomas and participated in numerous criminal trials.

From 2014 to 2016, Donnelly was a defence and employment lawyer at Rishworth, Wall and Mathieson in Gisborne, handling jury and judge-alone trials and appeals. He returned to Preston Russell as a partner in 2016 and became a director when the firm incorporated as PR Law.

Over 2016 to early 2024, he worked on serious crimes prosecuted by PR Law, including all of Invercargill’s homicide trials in collaboration with the Crown Solicitor. He has prosecuted domestic violence, serious drug offending, fraud, severe violence and sexual cases, and gang-related crimes.

In addition, Donnelly has mentored young Māori lawyers and led the Māori Crown Prosecutors’ Rōpū. He will lead the new firm Rāwhiti Legal with the support of senior practitioner Leighvi Maynard.

Steve Manning, who hands over the Gisborne warrant to Donnelly, confirmed that he would offer Donnelly and Maynard his support. Manning, who continues as Napier Crown Solicitor, had proposed the recruitment of a local Crown Solicitor in Gisborne.

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