Sir Owen Woodhouse had a distinguished legal career as a lawyer, jurist and chair of government commissions.
He was a law partner from 1946 to 1961 prior to his appointment to the New Zealand Supreme Court. Sir Owen was appointed a Judge of the New Zealand Supreme Court in 1961, a Judge of the New Zealand Court of Appeal in 1973 and was President of the Court of Appeal from 1981 to 1986. He was President of the Law Commission from 1986 to 1991. He was made a Privy Counsellor and member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1974.
He was the Chairman of the Royal Commission on Accident Compensation from 1966 to 1967, which produced what is now known as the Woodhouse Report that recommended a “no-fault” accident compensation scheme. The Report is regarded as one of the most significant legal reforms of this generation. Sir Owen was commissioned by the Australian Government in 1974 to prepare a proposal to reform that country’s compensation scheme. This resulted in the Report of the National Committee of Inquiry, Compensation and Rehabilitation in Australia, now known as the Australian Woodhouse Report. He later prepared a Third Woodhouse Report as President of the Law Commission on Personal Injury, Prevention and Recovery, which recommended an end to the disparities between the treatment of accident victims and those incapacitated by sickness or disease.
He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Law by Victoria University of Wellington in 1978 and York University, Toronto in 1981.
Sir Owen was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1944 for naval operations in the Adriatic. He was made a Knight Bachelor in 1974 and a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1981.
Citation prepared 2007