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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

White v James Hardie New Zealand
18 February 2019
[2019] NZHC 188

James Hardie seeks security for costs in the White proceedings. The order is sought against the litigation funder Harbour Fund II L.P (Harbour) and the plaintiffs. Disclosure of the funding arrangements is also sought.

The plaintiffs in this case are not collectively impecunious. An order for security can nevertheless be made because of Harbour's involvement. Harbour's presence means the inherent jurisdiction to make an order for security against an overseas resident litigation funder is engaged. Security should be based on scale 3C for all attendances up to and including Stage 1 discovery and inspection.

Given the outcome of the security for costs application and the disutility of inquiry as to the scope of the ATE insurance, there is no reason to require disclosure.  The application for disclosure is declined.

Commerce Commission v Viagogo AG
18 February 2019
[2019] NZHC 187

Application for interim injunction­ proceedings brought under Fair Trading Act 1986- applicant alleges making of false and misleading representations on respondent company's website - application made on Pickwick basis - respondent not yet served formally.
Held: No jurisdiction exists allowing consideration and determination of application for interim relief- application dismissed.

R v Sanders
15 February 2019
[2019] NZHC 164

The defendant appears for sentence for wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and assault with intent to injure. This is the defendant's 'third strike' offence. Section 860(2) of the Sentencing Act applies, requiring the defendant to be sentenced to the maximum term of imprisonment for that offence (14 years). Under s 860(3), an order must be made this sentence be served without parole, unless it would be manifestly unjust to do so. The offending took place in prison. The defendant, alongside a co-defendant, struck another inmate using a shank-type weapon. It was serious offending of its kind. The defendant had an extensive criminal history and was assessed as highly likely to reoffend. But for the three strikes regime, a likely sentence would have been at least seven years' imprisonment, and a likely minimum period of at least 50 per cent. HELD: Parole ineligibility for the whole of the maximum term's duration would be grossly disproportionate. The co-offender's maximum sentence is only five years. For the wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, the maximum term of 14 years' imprisonment is imposed with a minimum period of imprisonment of sevenyears. For the assault charge, a sentence of twelve months' imprisonment. To be served concurrently with each other, and the sentence the defendant is presently serving.

R v Singh
14 February 2019
[2019] NZHC 148

Murder sentencing. The defendant appears for sentence having been found guilty by a jury of one count of murder. Section 102(1) of the Sentencing Act applies which requires the defendant to be sentenced to life imprisonment unless such a sentence will be manifestly unjust. The defendant was previously in a relationship with the victim. The defendant attacked the victim with two weapons in her home she shared with her parents. He immediately took steps to cover up his involvement, alleging he had been victim of a robbery. Sections 1 04(1)(b) ,(c) and (e) applied - the offending involved calculated planning, unlawful entry and a high level of brutality and callousness.

HELD: No mitigating circumstances. Imprisonment for life is appropriate and there is no suggestion that such would be manifestly excessive. Life imprisonment with MPI of 19 years imposed.

Coleman v Police
13 February 2019
[2019] NZHC 140

Argued that results of EBA test not allowed as evidence because driver had not been given uninterrupted 10 minutes to decide whether he wanted a blood alcohol test. Constable interrupted the period to talk to the driver because of concerns about his mental state and safety. After a half hour interruption, Police gave driver further 10 minutes to make decision about blood test. Driver elected not to have a blood test. High Court held there had been reasonable compliance with the driver's right to a 10 minute election period following advice.

R v Woods
12 February 2019
[2019] NZHC 122

Application under s 147 Criminal Procedure Act: Held that a jury, properly directed, could not reasonably be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that defendant caused the death of victim. Accordingly, he could not reasonably be convicted of either murder or manslaughter. Conclusion based substantially on a revised brief of evidence of the Crown's forensic pathologist, who had reassessed her earlier findings. In a supplementary brief of evidence, she explains why she is now satisfied that the evidence of compression to the victim's's neck cannot confidently be said to have played a role in her death. In light of her revised opinion, the Crown has not resisted the defence application to have the charge dismissed.

In these circumstances, the charge against the defendant must be dismissed.

R v Lima Terry Feleti
07 February 2019
[2019] NZHC 94

Sentence for manslaughter.
18 year-old defendant threw metal tool at victim after dispute in workplace. Tool struck victim in left cheek just below eye, causing fatal penetratinginjury. Comparison drawn with one-punch manslaughter cases, in particular R v Rakete.
Starting point of 3 years adopted. Uplift of 2 months for offending on bail. Discount of 20% for youth and 5% for remorse (defendant had taken responsibility for actions and offered to engage in restorative justice). Further discount of 1 month for time spent under 24 curfew and 25% guilty plea discount.
Final sentence of 1 year, 8 months' imprisonment commuted to 10 months home detention due to strong chances of rehabilitation.

R v Hanara
05 February 2019
[2019] NZHC 78

Murder sentencing. A physical altercation arose between the victim and a group of young people, including the 14-year-old defendant. As the victim was retreating, the defendant stabbed him four times to the chest and neck, severing his carotid artery. Mitigating circumstances of youth and mental impairment were not such as to render a sentence of life imprisonment manifestly unjust. While circumstances of the offending would normally warrant a minimum period of imprisonment (MPI) of more than ten years, it was concluded that the circumstances of the offender were such as to justify the imposition of an MPI of ten years, the statutory minimum under s 103 of the Sentencing Act 2002.

R v Thompson
05 February 2019
[2019] NZHC 72

Murder sentencing. Tenant of rural cottage shot landlord at close quarters. Victim 78 and defendant 68. Defendant had made periodic threats to shoot the landlord, loaded the shotgun before the fatal meeting and discouraged others at the scene from offering assistance. No remorse. Section 104(1)(e) applied - high level of callousness involved. Mitigating circumstances of mental disorder, no previous convictions and guilty plea would dictate an MPI of 13 years and two months. Disparity between that and 17 years would render sentencing under s 104 manifestly unjust. Life imprisonment with MPI of 13 years and two months imposed.

Taylor v Roper
21 January 2019
[2019] NZHC 16

Claim for costs. R's entitlement reduced by 50% because he lost on issue of whether the acts occurred. Further reduction not made. R's conduct towards M heinous, but costs not to be used to penalise conduct the subject of the substantive claim. That was the function of the law governing the substantive claim. M unsuccessful in her substantive claim. Costs not to be used as backdoor means of granting relief to a plaintiff who failed to get claim past front door. Further reduction or refusal inconsistent with principles underpinning costs regime. R left with significant costs burden, despite being successful party, but that was ordinary consequence of applying costs rules.

case summary only available : R v Venod SKANTHA
14 January 2019
[2019] NZHC 7

The High Court has declined an application for the trial of Dr Skantha to be moved away from Dunedin. Justice Nation held that it will be possible to empanel a jury for Dr Skantha's trial in Dunedin that will be able to keep to their judicial promise to reach a verdict solely on the evidence that is put before them.

Justice Nation said he was satisfied that it would be possible to hold Dr Skantha's trial in Dunedin before a jury which will be able to reach a verdict solely on the evidence, uninfluenced by feelings of prejudice or sympathy.

The trial is likely to occur in the latter half of 2019.

R v Fakaosilea & Anor
17 December 2018
[2018] NZHC 3362

Sentencing of two co-defendants involved in the largest ever importation of methamphetamine.  Both pleaded guilty and appeared for sentence.

Mr Fakaosilea was sentenced to 22 years and nine months' imprisonment, with a minimum period of imprisonment of eight years and nine months, on the charge of importation of methamphetamine. He was one of the least culpable codefendants, although sufficiently important in the operation to be present during the unloading of the methamphetamine.

Mr lusitini was sentenced to 25 years and seven months' imprisonment, with a minimum period of imprisonment of ten years, on the charge of importation of methamphetamine. He was one of three co-defendants who held an organisational role in the offending. Parity with co-defendants justified the sentences in both cases.

R v Hura
17 December 2018
[2018] NZHC 3347

Sentencing of Mr Hura and Mr Pulemoana for their roles in the deaths of Raymond and James Fleet. Mr Pulemoana was found guilty of the murder of James and manslaughter of Raymond and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum period of imprisonment of 14 years. Discounts given to Mr Pulemoana for remorse and offer to plead guilty. Mr Hura was found guilty of the manslaughter of both men, and possession charges related to the manufacture of methamphetamine. He was sentenced to six years' imprisonment, receiving discounts for youth, mental factors, remorse and time spent on restrictive bail conditions.

R v SM
17 December 2018
[2018] NZHC 3345

Sentencing for manslaughter of Norman Kingi. 15 year-old (SM) stabbed Mr Kingi once to the chest.  Mr Kingi and his partner found SM and two other girls breaking into their car. Mr Kingi's partner detained one of the girls and was going to call the police. SM and the other demanded her release. Mr Kingi came toward SM at which point she stabbed him. Judge adopted starting point of 6 years. Applied discounts of 35% for youth and 15% for her offer to plead manslaughter prior to trial. 5 month reduction for time spent on EM bail. End sentence of 2 years, 11 months. Permanent name suppression granted. 

R v Chase, Clarke & Griffin
14 December 2018
[2018] NZHC 3332

Whakapumatanga Clarke sentenced to life imprisonment with an MPI of 17 years for the murder of Taupo man, Scott Henry, in July 2017. Cody Griffin sentenced to ten years and nine months imprisonment, without parole (second strike offence) for the manslaughter of Mr Henry. Daniel Chase sentenced to 8 years and one month imprisonment for aggravated robbery, with an MPI of 50%.

Sheffield Properties Limited v Kapiti Coast District Council & Ors
13 December 2018
[2018] NZHC 3290

This was a successful application for an order striking out an application by Sheffield Properties Ltd (Sheffield) for judicial review of the Kapiti Coast District Council's decision on a Private Plan Change relating to land within the Kapiti Coast Airport zone. The proceedings were barred by s 296 of the Resource Management Act 1991 which required the applicant to exhaust its rights of appeal which it had not done. The judicial review proceedings were also held to have been brought with undue and prejudicial delay, and to be an abuse of process, the predominant ulterior purpose having been to protect Sheffield's commercial interests.

R v Borrell
12 December 2018
[2018] NZHC 3281

Sentencing on charge of murder caused by one stab wound to the chest.
Result: Sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum period of imprisonment of 10 years.

Aotearoa Water Action Incorporated v Canterbury Regional Council & Ors
10 December 2018
[2018] NZHC 3240

This case was a successful application for declarations that three resource consents to take water did not authorise the change in the use of the consents from freezing works and wool scour respectively, to using the water for bottling and export overseas. The Court clarified that, in ascertaining the scope of the consents, it was permissible to have recourse to the contents of the original application for the consent and its supporting documentation, even when the consent was not ambiguous on its face and did not refer back to the application.

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 Tarawa
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.

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.