Now entering its fifth week, the trial of murder-accused Lauren Dickason has gained attention across the globe for its gruesome details and insight into a growing societal issue, mental illness.
Presiding judge overseeing one of the most publicised trials of the year, Justice Cameron Mander, together with the 12 jurors, heard extensive evidence into Lauren’s upbringing, her struggles with anxiety and depression and the tribulations she endured on the road to motherhood.
Justice Mander is based in the Christchurch region, was appointed a High Court judge in 2013, according to New Zealand state website.
Mander graduated LLB from Victoria University in 1985 and then did his LLM Honors in 1991.
Mander worked as a solicitor at Luke Cunningham and Clere, one of the largest litigation firms based in Wellington before moving to London as a solicitor at Clifford Chance.
He also graduated LLM Honours at Cambridge University during his stay in the UK.
In 2007, Mander returned to New Zealand and joined the state as a Deputy Solicitor-General.
This week, Justice Mander summarised the case of both the defence and prosecution for the jury, before they entered deliberation, Stuff.NZ reported.
Lauren Dickason is accused of murdering her three daughters Lianè, 6, Maya and Kala, 2, on the evening of September 16, 2021.
Lauren admitted to killing the children, but pleaded not guilty to murder charges by reason of insanity. The defence maintains that she cannot be held criminally responsible due to the collapse of her mental state, which was at the centre of the trial.
It was also reported that her husband Graham had returned to South African since the incident and that the children have been buried in South Africa.
Despite New Zealand operating under British Law, much like South Africa does, they have adopted a jury system into its criminal justice structure to determine a conviction, much like the US.
It is understood that the right to trial by jury is protected under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and are reserved for serious crimes.
Justice Mander told the Jury that the prosecution’s case suggests that Lauren’s actions the night of the incident were a result of anger and frustration because of how the children were behaving.
The Crown says Lauren snapped, Justice Mander told the jury.
"The Crown says Mrs Dickason’s actions were a reaction to the anger and frustration at her children’s misbehaviour … and she snapped,” Justice Mander was quoted saying.
When explaining the defence’s case, Mander said it was based on the premise that Lauren did not fully recover from post-partum depression.
Several stressing factors including Covid lockdown, events in South Africa compounded by the fact that Lauren was off her medication, worsened the post-partum symptoms since the birth of her children, Mander told the jury.
All of this caused Lauren to be severely depressed at the time of the killings and, therefore, the defence says she should not be held criminally liable, Mander explained.
If in the event that Lauren is found insane, Mander will be the one to determine the appropriate order based on further medical opinions, the jury were told.
If she is guilty of murder, Mander will determine the length of the prison term.
“Your focus must be on the state of Mrs Dickason’s mind at the time and whether she appreciated that what she was doing was wrong,” Mander told the jury.