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‘Massive hole in our universe’: Woman, 62, sentenced over young lawyer's tragic death

Tom Dillane,
Publish Date
Sat, 2 Sep 2023, 8:57am
31-year-old Telise Martin died on the North Shore in April. Photo / Supplied
31-year-old Telise Martin died on the North Shore in April. Photo / Supplied

‘Massive hole in our universe’: Woman, 62, sentenced over young lawyer's tragic death

Tom Dillane,
Publish Date
Sat, 2 Sep 2023, 8:57am

The family of Auckland lawyer Telise Martin today spoke of their enduring pain and the “massive hole in our universe” as a 62-year-old woman responsible for her death due to careless driving was sentenced to community work. 

The 31-year-old litigator at Martelli McKegg Lawyers died on April 18 after being hit by a vehicle on Corinthian Dr, Albany, while she was leaning into an open door of her parked car on her way to North Shore District Court. 

The driver behind the wheel of the van that hit Martin was sentenced to 168 hours of community work and ordered to pay $2000 to the Martin family - an amount that the defendant said was all she could afford after not working since the accident. 

In sentencing the woman today in North Shore District Court, just a few hundred metres from where Martin died, Judge Kate Davenport said, “I must only focus on your culpability, rather than what has been caused by your culpability.” 

Davenport prefaced the hearing by saying, “It’s very difficult for everybody in this room.” She noted that extra tissues had been ordered for the courtroom and hoped some were at hand for herself. 

The Auckland litigator’s husband, Tim Martin, and her mother, Leanne Kelly, read out victim impact statements. Both spoke through tears, and many others in court could also be heard sobbing. 

Tim Martin described his wife of five months as “an anchor for so many of us”, especially his young son, Sebastian, whom she had helped raise as a step-mother for many years. 

“She shifted every aspect of her life for that boy,” Tim Martin said. “She was so loyal. She was my best friend. 

“She was proud of where she came from - the North, humble beginnings. 

“One day she was going to be up there [a judge]. She saw the law as something that could make people more equal, not widen the gap.” 

Tim Martin recalled the last time he saw his wife was the morning of the accident, as he was heading out to walk the dog and his wife was heading to North Shore court. 

He said he told Martin he loved her as “she walked out the door”. 

Addressing the driver, Tim Martin said, “Sure, you didn’t set out to take her from us that day... but that distraction [while driving] has caused a rip in our universe. 

“Nothing will bring her back. Just make sure you’ve done some good in the world.” 

Tim Martin also touched on the emotional trauma his wife’s death had had on him. 

“I don’t sleep… late at night wondering what those last moments were like.” 

He said he is now “constantly anxious... scared of cars”. 

Martin’s mother also spoke of the huge emptiness in her life since her daughter’s death. 

“She was my future of which I now have none… Tim has no wife or love of his life,” Kelly said. 

“I have to watch their pain and manage my own. My life feels like a broken jigsaw puzzle with some huge piece missing.” 

Kelly described her daughter as one of the “success stories” of the Far North, where as a young girl she loved books and dancing. 

“I don’t want the offender’s blood… I would like a thought from her on Mother’s Day… Christmas Day,” Kelly said. 

Judge Davenport confirmed police prosecutors admitted the driver’s culpability on the low level of a charge of careless or inconsiderate vehicle operation causing death and that an appropriate sentence would be community work. 

The woman struck Martin after briefly glancing away from the road while driving along Corinthian Dr on the morning of April 18. 

The most severe sentence for the charge is three months in jail and a fine of $4,500. 

The driver was not speeding at the time of the accident, had no prior convictions and “very few” demerit points on her license over the course of her life. She was given discounts on her sentence for her early guilty plea and her remorse. 

“There is little that you can do now to change things… You wish there was something you could do,” Davenport said to the defendant. 

The 62-year-old has not driven since the April 18 accident due to a lack of confidence, and has lost her job as a cleaner as a result. 

In making her sentence, Davenport likened Martin’s life to that of the proverb “a white heron’s flight is seen but once”, saying the young litigator had the “empathy and tenacity of a great advocate”. 

Speaking outside North Shore District Court, Martin’s uncle, Craig Johnson, said the sentencing provided some closure. 

“She [the driver] needs to get on with her life and we need to get on with ours,” Johnson said. “It’s just a momentary lapse in concentration. We’ve all done it. I just wish it was different.” 

Martin attended the University of Auckland, where she obtained degrees in law and accounting before being admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court in 2015. 

Following her death, Martin was described as an “incredibly talented” young lawyer by her colleagues at Martelli McKegg Lawyers and had been a high-achieving student at St Cuthbert’s College. 

“Telise had a great enthusiasm for every aspect of her life and this spilled over into her practice as a lawyer,” the tribute read. 

“She was somebody who touched every member of the Martelli McKegg team and was deeply respected by every one of us. We will hugely miss her presence, guidance and support, particularly the litigation team... Rest in peace our dear friend.” 

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