Person - John Roscoe Nield

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JOHN ROSCOE NIELD (1892 - 1975)

Supreme Court judge John Roscoe Nield was a regular NT audience member. In 1955 he gave Reedy River records as Christmas presents to his friends.

Born at Hurstville, he won a scholarship to Sydney Boys’ High in 1905, the first of many scholarships and medals. After graduating BA with first class honours in Greek and Latin, he began a law degree, his studies interrupted by his enlistment in the First World War. After marrying Olive Annie Clark (died 7 August 1975) he sailed on 7 October 1916 on HMAT Ceramic and served in France, returning to Australia as a lieutenant in 1919. He resumed his legal studies and in 1921 graduated LLB with first class honours, and in 1926 was called to the Bar. Nield stood as a Nationalist candidate for Hurstville in 1927 and, narrowly defeated on preferences, ran a long-running campaign against the election of Labor’s Walter James Butler over disputed absentee votes.

In December 1933 Nield was appointed a District Court judge. In 1941 Judge Nield upheld an appeal by Victor Workman, assistant secretary of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union, who was fined for stopping customers going into “The Spot” café in Wollongong after it was declared black when a dismissed waitress said she’d been victimised and other girls walked out in sympathy. In 1953 he disputed the evidence of the Vice Squad’s Sgt Cameron in a soliciting charge against artist Douglas Annand in a Chatswood toilet. Cameron, who was dismissed from the police force, was reinstated on appeal and Nield was portrayed in the Press as a judge ready to find fault with the police.

In 1954 Nield admitted his daughter Lesley Roscoe Bowles to the Bar. In the same year he was promoted to the Supreme Court where he specialised in divorce law and shortened the time it took to get one. He retired from the Bench in 1962 after which he graduated Bachelor of Divinity from Sydney University in 1966.

Judge Nield died on 19 August 1975, twelve days after the death of his wife. Predeceased by a son Bruce Roscoe Nield, he was survived by his daughter Lesley (died 16 September 1993), son-in-law Gordon Roy Bowles (died 5 October 2007) and their children and grandchildren.

John Roscoe Nield’s biographical cuttings are held by the National Library of Australia.

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