SKERRETT, Sir Charles Perrin, K.C.M.G.
A new biography of Skerrett, Charles Perrin appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Charles Perrin Skerrett was born in India on 2 September 1863, the son of Peter Perrin Skerrett with whom he came to New Zealand when he was 12. He was educated at Wellington College and joined the Post Office as a cadet. In 1878 he transferred to the Treasury and, in the following year, joined the Department of Justice as a clerk in the Wellington Magistrates' Court. His experience here decided him to take up law and, in 1881, he was articled to Buller, Lewis, and Gully. Admitted to the Bar in 1884, Skerrett went into private practice and, three years later, formed the firm of Brown, Skerrett, and Dean. This partnership was dissolved in 1893 when the firm of Skerrett and Wylie was formed. In 1909 the partners amalgamated with Chapman and Tripp. About 1902, when the Newtown licensing case came before the Privy Council, Skerrett went to London and successfully conducted the appeal. At the conclusion their lordships took the unprecedented course of congratulating him publicly on his skill in presenting his argument. He also acted as counsel in numerous electoral petitions, most notable being those of Sir Thomas Wilford, Hutt; Sir Maui Pomare, Western Maori; and Sir James Parr, Eden. He was also responsible for drafting T. G. McCarthy's will.
During 1907, when the first King's Counsel were appointed in New Zealand, Skerrett was among the first group to take silk. From 1918 to 1926 he was president of the New Zealand Law Society. On 1 February 1926 he succeeded Sir Robert Stout as Chief Justice and, in May of that year, he acted as Deputy Governor during the absence of Sir Charles Fergusson. In January 1927 he was created K.C.M.G. and, in September, was appointed to the Royal Commission to inquire into the administration of Western Samoa. Early in 1928 Skerrett underwent a series of operations which necessitated the amputation of both legs. On 26 January 1929 he left on the Port Denison for a short visit to London and died at sea on 13 February 1929. He was unmarried.
After his death the New Zealand Law Journal commented: “It is not on his services to the community as a Judge that posterity will assess Sir Charles Skerrett because his occupancy of the office was unfortunately for such a short period … It is on his long and distinguished career in the ranks of his profession that his reputation rests”.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
- New Zealand Law Journal, 5 Mar 1929 (Obit)
- The Times (London), 18 Feb 1929 (Obit)
- New Zealand Herald, 20 Feb 1929 (Obit)
- Dominion, 20 Feb 1929 (Obit).