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High Court Judgments of Public Interest


This page provides access to judgments of the High Court in the last 90 days deemed to be of particular public interest.

More information about finding court judgments is available on the judgments section of this website.

 It is the responsibility of users of the information contained in these decisions to ensure compliance with conditions or other legal obligations governing access, release, storage and re-publication. See also the guide on statutory provisions that prohibit publication of certain information in certain circumstances. If in doubt you should consult the court that issued the decision(s).  Judicial Decisions are presented in PDF format to preserve the integrity of the documents.

Guide on statutory provisions prohibiting publication

R v Whiting-Roff and Ors
10 December 2018
[2018] NZHC 3239

Sentencing for three defendants: Brayden Mark Whiting-Roff - murder and a charge of assault; Christopher James Brown - murder; Laura Elizabeth Joy Scheepers - manslaughter.


Brayden Mark Whiting-Roff: on the charge of murder sentenced to life imprisonment with an MPI of 12 years six months. On the charge of assault sentenced to two months' imprisonment with an MPI of 10 years.

Christopher Brown - on the charge of murder sentenced to life imprisonment with an MPI of 10 years. 

Laura Scheepers - on the charge of manslaughter sentenced to 12 months' home detention on conditions proposed in the pre-sentence report. 

Cullen Group Ltd v Commissioner of Inland Revenue
10 December 2018
[2018] NZHC 3238

Kea Investments Ltd is granted access to the court file of Cullen Group Ltd's tax challenge in the interests of open justice and to facilitate the orderly and fair administration of justice in contributing to enforcement of a foreign judgment.

Attorney-General v Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand Incorporated
07 December 2018
[2018] NZHC 3211
Media release

Application for judicial review by Attorney-General granted in relation to decision by the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand Incorporated when it discontinued disciplinary proceedings against Dr Reay, whose company designed the CTV Building in Christchurch which collapsed in the Canterbury earthquakes, killing 115 people. Declarations issued that the Institution has jurisdiction to investigate, hear and determine the complaint and that the Institution was wrong in law to dismiss the complaint.

R v Kelly
07 December 2018
[2018] NZHC 3183

Representative charge of dealing in a young person for sexual exploitation. Victim only 14. Defendant 19. Four year starting point adopted. Mitigating factors reduced sentence to two and a half years' imprisonment. Discussion of relevance of maximum penalty of 14 years, particularly in absence of appellate guideline.

R v Tawara
06 December 2018
[2018] NZHC 3205

The defendant appears for sentence having pleaded guilty to one charge of manslaughter following acceptance of a sentence indication. The victim was driving a vehicle that cut across the defendant's lane, nearly hitting the defendant's vehicle. The defendant had to brake to avoid a collision. The defendant's pregnant partner was a passenger. The defendant followed the white van which turned in to the victim's driveway some way down the road. The victim and the defendant got out of their vehicles and argued about the near miss. Neither the victim or the defendant took the advice of the pregnant passenger to stop the exchange and the argument escalated. The victim pushed the defendant in the chest and the defendant responded by punching the defendant twice; the final punch was to the head and knocked the victim backwards, his head striking the concrete and making him immediately unconscious. Without checking the victim's condition, the defendant left the scene. The victim was taken to hospital but deteriorated quickly and died the next day. HELD: The Judge, taking into account the aggravating factors of the offending and comparing them with the circumstances of other cases, determined that a starting point of three years and nine months' imprisonment would be appropriate to reflect the seriousness of the offending. The Judge considered that the confinement of severely restricted EM bail conditions on the defendant's liberty over the ten month period justified a discount of six months imprisonment. The defendant was and remains of an age when young men can be guilty of impulsive and impetuous behaviour without fully comprehending the possible consequences of their actions. The reliance on neurological differences for young people is based on neurological science which has established that those parts of the human brain which control impulses and reasoning and the assessment of risk are the last to become fully formed. The Judge recognised that, to a degree, the impulsive, reckless response which caused the victim's death can be attributed partly to the defendant's youth. The Judge considered a 20 per cent discount for his youth is appropriate. That produces a reduced sentence of two years and seven months' imprisonment. The defendant indicated a willingness to participate in a restorative justice conference and respected the wishes of the victim's family, in a letter addressed to them, when that was declined. The Judge accepts the defendant's sentiments as genuine and considered a discount of two months was an appropriate reduction in the circumstances. The Judge is satisfied that credit should be given for the full 25 per cent available for the defendant's guilty plea. That brings the sentence down to one years and nine months' imprisonment. As the sentence is a short term sentence of under two years, the defendant is eligible for home detention. The Judge is satisfied that a sentence of home detention, combined with a substantial period of community work, would meet the sentencing purposes and principles applicable to this case. The defendant is sentenced to ten months' home detention. The defendant is also sentenced to 400 hours of community work.

R v Curry
05 December 2018
[2018] NZHC 3188

Repeat serious sexual offender sentenced to preventive detention (PO) with five year MPI. In recognition of background of deprivation and abuse and its contribution to his offending discount given in calculating starting point. The defendant posed a high risk of serious sexual offending upon release from prison unless significant rehabilitative steps taken to understand and address causes of offending. Finite sentence with conditions unlikely to mitigate risk of intermittent acts of spontaneous and sexual violence. Preventive detention appropriate where offender has resisted acknowledging his problem because PO requires full engagement in treatment and acceptance of responsibility for rehabilitation.

Murren v Schaeffer
05 December 2018
[2018] NZHC 3176

Judgment concerns a claim for damages based on misrepresentations made by the defendant to the plaintiffs that caused them to invest in the Woollaston/Mahana vineyard near Nelson. Causes of action based upon negligent misstatement, breach of the Fair Trading Act and the Nevada Deceptive Trade Practices Act have succeeded. Causes of action based upon deceit and fraudulent misrepresentations have failed. Damages totalling USD 2,301,220.88 plus interest awarded to the plaintiffs.

Urlich v Far North District Council
04 December 2018
[2018] NZHC 3170

Global Fibre8 Ltd found to be negligent and having engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct in supplying K3T wall panel system and designing its  installation. Damages awarded to Mr and Ms Urlich on formal proof. 

R v Julian
04 December 2018
[2018] NZHC 3165

SENTENCING. Defendant pleaded guilty to one representative charge of permitting her premises to be used for the manufacture of methamphetamine and one representative charge of supply of methamphetamine. Her property was one of many used in the commercial manufacture of methamphetamine.
HELD: Sentenced to 10 months' home detention given the defendant's good prospects of rehabilitation, and in particular the support offered by her friends and family. On an overall starting point of two years and nine months, a three and a half month discount for time spent on EM bail, and a 25 per cent guilty plea discount were applied.

R v Te Kani
29 November 2018
[2018] NZHC 3134

Richard Te Kani is sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment after pleading guilty to two charges of manslaughter, one charge of manufacturing methamphetamine, two charges of accessory after the fact to murder, and four charges of neglect of a child.


R v Wilson
29 November 2018
[2018] NZHC 3117

Sentencing - offender had been found guilty by a jury of sexual offending against three separate complainants between 1972 and 1980 - standing alone, the offending would have warranted a starting point of between ten and 12 years imprisonment applying sentencing standards at the time of the offending - in 1996 the offender had been sentenced to 21 years imprisonment on charges involving sexual offending against numerous female complainants that occurred between 1972 and 1994 - the charges that related to the period between 1972 and 1985 attracted a sentence of eight years imprisonment - held that if the present charges had been considered at the same time as the earlier charges a sentence of ten years eight months imprisonment would have been imposed to reflect the totality of the offending - starting point of two years eight months imprisonment selected - discount of four months to reflect the fact that the offender will serving the new sentence of imprisonment at the age of 72 years - end sentence two years four months imprisonment.

Stringer v Craig
26 November 2018
[2018] NZHC 3076

Interlocutory applications in the defamation suit by John Stringer against Colin Craig and others are determined:
(a) Mr Craig must preserve cell-phones and extraction reports pending discovery.
(b) Because they plead honest opinion, Mrs Craig and Mrs Stott must answer interrogatories regarding their knowledge about Mr Craig's relationship with Ms MacGregor.
(c) All the applications for strike out are declined but Mr Taylor's application for strike out for abuse of process by Mr Stringer is declined by a fine margin. A line call should be decided in preserving access to the courts.

Sellman v Slater
23 November 2018
[2018] NZHC 3057

Interlocutory declarations are determined in a defamation suit by three medical professional plaintiffs:
(a) Mr Cameron Slater's application to exclude evidence is declined;
(b) a version of the plaintiffs' application for particular discovery by Mr Slater and Mr Graham is granted;
(c) the plaintiffs' application for particular discovery by Mrs Katherine Rich and the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council is granted only to a limited extent;
(d) Mrs Rich's and the NZFGC's application for particular discovery by the plaintiffs is declined;
(e) the plaintiffs' application to examine Mr Slater and Mr Graham orally is granted because they have made insufficient answer to interrogatories.

Reserve Bank of New Zealand v CBL Insurance Ltd (No 3)
16 November 2018
[2018] NZHC 2969

Reasons judgment for making liquidation order-s 151 Insurance (Prudential Supervision) Act 2010-breach of solvency ratio- serious failure to comply with directions given by Reserve Bank as regulator- balance sheet insolvency a consideration under the just and equitable ground- evidence of misconduct in the management of the company sufficient to satisfy Court that winding up just and equitable.

R v Patel
14 November 2018
[2018] NZHC 2946

Mr Patel appears for sentence on one charge of indecent assault relating to indecent touching at a movie theatre; his fourth conviction for this type of offending. Because the written warning requirements for his second strike offence were not carried out, the record of final warning is incomplete. He must be sentenced as if this is his second strike offence. A start point of 6 months, uplifted to recognise prior convictions, is appropriate. Discounts to recognise mental health issues, remorse, and guilty plea are also warranted. A final sentence of 5 months home detention is imposed, with the special condition that Mr Patel take his medication, as well as an emotional harm payment of $500.

R v Swinton
09 November 2018
[2018] NZHC 2910

Sentencing following guilty verdict by jury – accessory after the fact of manslaughter (assisting with relocation and burning of van to conceal evidence or linkage to victim’s death) – offending gang-related – consideration of principle of parity with co-defendants – culpability assessed as on a par with co-defendant Te Moana – starting point 21 months’ imprisonment – 10 per cent discount for personal circumstances – no uplift for previous history – final sentence 19 months imprisonment with release conditions.

R v Pomee
09 November 2018
[2018] NZHC 2891

Third strike sentencing for kidnap and aggravated robbery (x2). Mandatory maximum penalty of 14 years imposed, but manifestly unjust for that to be without parole. But for the three-strikes regime, the sentence would have been six years and three months. Lesser minimum period ordered. 

Accident Compensation Corporation and “HK” v NG, “L” and Accident Compensation Corporation
02 November 2018
[2018] NZHC 2848

Appeal of three separate decisions concerning s 32, Accident Compensation Act 2001.
(1) Meaning of "not [an] ordinary consequence" is a consequence that has 50 per cent or greater chance of occurring. An ordinary consequence is one that is more probable than not rather than a consequence that has "reasonable risk" of occurring.
(2) Test is both qualitative and quantitative, based on presentation of claimant and what account occurred in course of treatment, but not taking into account the background risk of injury. Assessment has experiential component and some form of statistical analysis likely to assist.
(3) There is no presumptive cover for injuries that occur during treatment.

Rewiti v The Māori Women’s Welfare League Inc
19 October 2018
[2018] NZHC 2713

Partially successful application for judicial review brought against the Maori Women's Welfare League Inc Te Ropu Wahine Maori Toko i te Ora. The first ground of review relating to changes made to the Constitution in 2013 fails. There was no breach of the constitutional"due notice" requirement; the notice given in the circumstances was appropriate. The second ground of review relating to changes made to the Handbook in 2015 succeeds. A vote on changes to the Handbook was required and could only have passed by 51 per cent majority. Therefore, those changes in 2015 are invalid. However, this had no practical effect on the outcome of the 2017 election and no further orders are made. The third ground of review becomes moot in light of the conclusion on the second ground.

Craig v Slater
19 October 2018
[2018] NZHC 2712
Media release

Defamation involving publication in 2015 through radio broadcasting and internet websites of allegations concerning conduct of Mr Colin Craig, the then leader of the Conservative Party, and his relationship with his then press secretary Ms Rachel MacGregor. Mr Craig alleged that he suffered serious damage to his reputation as a consequence of allegedly untrue statements published by the defendants, Mr Cameron Slater and Social Media Consultants Limited (SMCl) (the company which establishes the Whaleoil blog). The core allegations were said to carry the meanings or imputations that he sexually harassed Ms MacGregor; sexually harassed Ms MacGregor so seriously that he confidentially settled her sexual harassment claim by paying her a large sum of money running into six figures; and that he misled the board ofthe Conservative Party about those matters. In response to the allegedly defamatory statements, Mr Craig published a booklet entitled "Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas" which he distributed to 1.6 million New Zealand homes. Mr Slater counterclaimed for allegedly defamatory statements made in the booklet. HELD: The Judge declared, under s 24 of the Defamation Act 1992, that Mr Slater and SMCl are liable to Mr Craig in defamation for only two untrue statements: that he had placed Ms MacGregor under financial pressure to sleep with him; and sexually harassed at least one victim other than Ms MacGregor. The Judge dismissed the remaining causes of action in defamation, either on grounds that the defence of truth was upheld or on the basis the publications were responsible communications on a matter of public interest. The Judge was satisfied that the declarations that Mr Craig was defamed by the two untrue statements provide adequate vindication, and dismissed Mr Craig's claim for damages accordingly. Although the Judge held the statements in the booklet were untrue and defamatory of Mr Slater, the Judge dismissed Mr Slater's causes of action in defamation against Mr Craig by way of counterclaim because they were made on an occasion of reply to attack qualified privilege.

R v Duff
18 October 2018
[2018] NZHC 2690

Seventeen year minimum period for murder of a nine-month old. At least three instances of significant force to the head. Injuries described as "devastating". Personal circumstances did not give rise to manifest injustice. Discussion of relevance of cultural reports in serious offences.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Auckland v Boynton
09 October 2018
[2018] NZHC 2636

The Catholic Bishop of Auckland applied for an interlocutory injunction requiring the defendants to provide vacant possession of the Diocese’s land, formerly used for the Hato Petera College and accompanying boarding facilities. The defendants occupied the land in protest of the Diocese’s retention of the land, despite the recent closure of the college, which they say is contrary to the purposes for which the Diocese was granted the land.

Application granted. Held, the defendants may have legitimate claims concerning the use and ownership of the land (the Court makes no ruling on the matter), but the issue for determination is a clear question of property rights. Importantly, in terms of the balance of convenience, granting the application does not prevent the defendants from bringing any claims they may have.


R v Nuku
05 October 2018
[2018] NZHC 2609

Sentence of seven years' imprisonment imposed for seven charges, including the lead charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. The lead offence falls within the upper end of band two of Taueki and a starting point of nine years' imprisonment is imposed . An uplift of three months' imprisonment is imposed to reflect the other six charges and the totality of the offending . A further uplift of three months' is imposed to reflect Mr Nuku's previous relevant convictions . Two months' imprisonment is deducted to reflect Mr Nuku's engagement in rehabilitation and treatment to address the triggers of his offending. A full 25 per cent discount is given for Mr Nuku's guilty plea.

R v Hone
05 October 2018
[2018] NZHC 2605

Sentencing notes.  Defendant pleaded guilty to two charges of murder, two of threatening to kill and one of manufacturing methamphetamine. The murder charges were second strike offences.  Held:  manifestly unjust to sentence to life without parole. Sentence imposed:  Life Imprisonment with minimum non-parole period of 20 years (after starting point of 24 years reduced for personal medical condition and guilty plea).

R v Yates
05 October 2018
[2018] NZHC 2600

Sentencing for murder, following trial.  Defendant repeatedly shot the victim and then hid his body. Section 104 of the Sentencing Act 2002 not quite engaged . Fifteen-year minimum imposed.

The Attorney-General v Dotcom
01 October 2018
[2018] NZHC 2564

Successful appeal against decision of the Human Rights Review Tribunal (the HRRT). The HRRT had upheld a complaint by Mr Dotcom that the transfer of his urgent requests for information under the Privacy Act 1993 from numerous government agencies and Ministers to Crown Law and the Attorney-General's subsequent decision to decline those requests on the grounds that they were vexatious were an interference with his privacy. The HRRT awarded Mr Dotcom $90,000 in damages and ordered the agencies to comply with the requests.

Held (1): there was a proper and lawful purpose for the transfer of the requests under s 39(b)(ii) as the information that was the subject of the requests were more closely connected with the functions or activities of Crown Law in conducting the litigation in respect of which the claim for urgency was made.

Held (2): in the context of this case, there was sufficient evidence to support an objective assessment that the insistence that all of the requests were required to be responded to urgently on the grounds that they were relevant to legal proceedings meant that the requests were vexatious.

Held (3): the damages awarded were wholly erroneous as there was no evidential basis for assuming that the information sought would have been relevant to the proceedings and there was no direct evidence relating to Mr Dotcom having suffered loss of dignity or injury to feelings such as to warrant an award under s 88(1)(c).



Taylor v Attorney General
28 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2557

In October 2016, management and officers at Auckland prison strip searched 209 prisoners, including Mr Taylor and Mr Smith. The search was ordered after several prisoners assaulted officers using weapons.  Mr Taylor and Mr Smith did not take part in the assault.  The High Court ruled that Corrections breached the Corrections Act 2004 by strip searching Mr Taylor and Mr Smith , and breached their right under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 to besecure against unreasonable search.  Corrections had no reasonable grounds to believe Mr Taylor or Mr Smith were in possession of weapons or other contraband.  The Court awarded $1000 each in compensation.

R v Ross and Wehipeihana
28 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2552

Sentencing of Mr Ross and Mr Wehipeihana on three charges of obtaining by deception and two charges of using a forged document.

The offending involved representations about the number of pre-sale purchasers for an apartment development. It involved the use of forged documents, sale and purchase agreements, purchase acknowledgements, and deeds of acknowledgement and forfeiture to substantiate and then conceal the fraud . As a result of the representations, a credit facility of approximately $41 million was obtained to undertake the development.

Starting point of five years and six months' imprisonment for Mr Ross. Discounts for remorse (five months), prior good character (four months), admissions of fact made to reduce the cost of trial (two months), and health concerns (three months), brought the sentence down to four years and four months' imprisonment.

Starting point of five years' imprisonment for Mr Wehipeihana, based on his relatively lesser role in the offending than Mr Ross. Discounts for remorse (four months), good character post the offending (three months), and admissions of fact to reduce the cost of trial (two months), brought the sentence down to four years and three months' imprisonment.

Minimum periods of imprisonment considered unnecessary in respect of both offenders.

Re CBL Insurance Ltd (In Liquidation)
28 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2547

Application for directions by interim liquidators as to whether commutation agreement with largest creditor within the interim liquidators' powers- scope of statutory powers of interim liquidator- whether  proposed agreement satisfied statutory  purpose. Application dismissed.


The Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development v L
26 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2528
Media release

Judgment released today explains that Benefit Review Committees established by legislation to review decisions made by Ministry of Social Development may not use fictitious names and signatures when issuing their decisions.


R v Nuku
26 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2510

Third-strike sentencing on seven-year maximum offences. Parole ineligibility for seven years not manifestly unjust, but preventive detention the better sentencing option. Defendant violent and dangerous. Preventive detention only sentence likely to encourage reform.

NZ Steel Ltd v Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
18 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2454
Media release

Judicial review application by NZ Steel against Minister's decision (based on investigation and advice from MBIE) that Chinese galvanised steel coil imports were subject only to minimal subsidisation such that no material injury is being caused to domestic industry and that no duty should be imposed under the Dumping and Countervailing Act 1988. HC held MBIE applied wrong law in deciding whether entities providing alleged subsidies to Chinese producers qualified as "government". Minister also inadequately informed about relevant information from overseas investigations into similar matters which had come to contrary conclusions. Minister's decision quashed and reinvestigation ordered.

Solicitor-General v Heta
18 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2453

The Solicitor-General appeals a 30% discount for “background and cultural information” based on a s27 report on the grounds it is precluded by current authority.

There is no fixed limit on discounts available in s 27 reports; nor is there a clear “range” for personal deprivation discounts generally. Rather, the Court has discretion to grant discounts for factors within a report which bear on moral culpability or rehabilitation. The Judge was entitled to consider the impact of systemic deprivation on Ms Heta as well as her personal background. The s 27 information showed discounts were warranted for background, restorative justice, and rehabilitation; the global discount awarded while high does not required correction.

R v Lawes
18 September 2018
[2018] NZHC 2448

Defendant pleaded guilty to three charges of entering into a dealing involving a person under 18 for the purposes of sexual exploitation, a representative charge of knowingly being concerned in the importation of objectionable publications, and one charge of being in possession of objectionable publications. The defendant live streamed children being sexually exploited and abused. He also downloaded objectionable material via the internet, and kept some of that material on his home computers.

The lead charges were the three charges of entering into a dealing involving a person under 18 for the purposes of sexual exploitation. The aggravating features were the youth of the victims, the situational vulnerability of the victims, the harm caused to the victims, premeditation, and the extent of the offending. The mitigating feature of the offending was that the defendant did not record the live stream shows, nor did he disseminate them to other persons. A starting point of eight years' imprisonment was taken for these three charges. This was uplifted because of the importation and possession offending.  Allowing for totality, the overall starting point was eight years and six months' imprisonment.

A discount of one year and three  months was allowed to reflect the defendant's prior good character and reparation payments. Further separate discounts of six months and nine months were applied for the defendant's age and cooperation with the police. A discount of 25 per cent for the defendant's guilty pleas was then applied. The end sentence was therefore four years and six months' imprisonment.


Fuji Xerox NZ Ltd v Whittaker
14 May 2018
[2018] NZHC 1043

A law firm asks to access documents in relation to a proceeding not yet determined. The Court analyses the meaning of "a register or an  index" in r 4 of the Senior Courts (Access to Court Documents) Rules 2017. The reference does not appear elsewhere in the Act, Senior Courts Act 2016, or other legislation. Giving it a contextual meaning, Court held it cannot mean any register or index that happens to be kept in a registry (for instance, an index of registry staff contract details). Instead, "a register or an index" is interpreted to include any list of 'documents' or 'court files', as those terms are defined in r 4.

Formerly, the registry maintained a register, into which was entered the civil proceedings filed in each court's registry - each court file containing an index of the documents collected in it. Now there is an electronic database, from which may be generated user-defined lists of its contents. Among those is a document styled 'Register of documents filed', which is produced for each civil proceeding. The Court interprets the request for access to the "proceedings index" to be to the register of documents filed in the present proceeding, being "a register or an index" to which there is a public right of access.