David Collins

Fragile Foundations

240mm x 170mm
Publication date:
9 May 2024

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The arrival of Europeans in Aotearoa brought about an inevitable clash between the laws and values of Māori societies and those of the newcomers.

Like a subduction zone between two tectonic plates, each pressing against the other, this clash led to ruptures, often with long-term consequences. This ground-breaking book examines a series of notable criminal trials in order to understand how the indiscriminate application of English criminal law in New Zealand during the 19th century shaped the landscape of contemporary society.

These trials partially explain why Māori continue to be adversely affected by this country’s criminal justice system, and also expose the punitive way in which English criminal law was applied during the pre-colonial and colonial eras – a trait that is never far from the surface of modern New Zealand society.

'David Collins’ highly commendable book serves as a timely reminder of that earlier, uglier, monocultural and often brutal and barbaric, criminal law system.' —Vincent O'Malley, Newsroom

'Authoritative and readable' NZ Listener

David Collins retired as a permanent member of the Court of Appeal in 2024, having previously served as a High Court Judge for seven years and as Solicitor-General for six years. His first book, Medical Law in New Zealand, was published by Brooker & Friend in 1992.

Cover photograph details: Barrett’s Hotel, Wellington, from Pictorial Illustrations of New Zealand by S. C. Brees (London: John Williams and Co., 1847), drawn by Samuel Charles Brees, engraved by Henry Melville. Ref: A-109-027, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand; and 'The Old Bailey, Known Also as the Central Criminal Court' (1808), Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Pugin.

Cover design: Todd Atticus