Court of Appeal Judgments of Public Interest
This page provides access to judgments of the Court of Appeal 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.
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In May 2010 Mr Mills pleaded guilty to the murder of Mr Faulkner. The High Court Judge sentenced him to life imprisonment with a minimum period of imprisonment of 11 years. Mr Mills appeals his conviction.
Issue: Is there an exceptional circumstance for vacating Mr Mills’ guilty plea on appeal?Held: No. Mr Mills’ counsel acknowledges that none of the categories recognised by this Court in previous cases apply in Mr Mills’ case. He made a conscious well-informed decision to plead guilty to the charge. He had received competent legal advice and there was no error by counsel alleged. There was no legal impediment to him being guilty of the charge, nor was the plea induced by any ruling that was wrong in law.
Issue: Will a miscarriage of justice arise if the appeal is dismissed?Held: No. The evidence offered by Mr Mills on appeal does not amount to a tenable argument that a miscarriage of justice will occur if the appeal is dismissed. The expert evidence does not provide a cogent basis to displace the findings made by the experts at the time of the offending as to whether a struggle occurred between Mr Mills and Mr Faulkner before Mr Faulkner was shot. Mr Mills’ more recent explanation of the events is similarly not cogent.
Public law - justiciability. Practice and procedure - striking out proceedings.
The Kiwi Party seeks to challenge the measures taken by the New Zealand Government in the aftermath of the Christchurch Mosque attacks on 15 March 2019 to reform the Arms Act 1983. In particular, the causes of action seek declarations and orders to the effect that the processes of the Select Committee and the resulting Amendment Act are unlawful and cannot be given force of law until validated by a subsequent general election or by referendum. In the High Court, Wylie J struck out all but one of the Kiwi Party's 12 causes of action. The Kiwi Party appeals the strike out.
Issue: Is there a constitutional right to bear arms in New Zealand?Held: No. There is not any support for such a right in any constitutional instruments that apply in New Zealand. In New Zealand, as in almost all countries, a citizen's ability to possess, own and use firearms is regulated by legislation.
Issue: Can the Kiwi Party challenge the lawfulness of processes and decisions made by the Select Committee which considered the Amendment Bill?Held: No. The Parliamentary Privilege Act 2014 places a bar on questioning the proceedings of Parliament. The causes of action squarely call into question the proceedings of Parliament and are therefore untenable.
Issue: Can the High Court issue declarations that the substance of legislation is invalid?Held: No. There is no right to private property or right to bear arms that incur on Parliament's ability to pass whatever legislation it chooses. Additionally, this is not an instance to consider whether there is jurisdiction for the Court to make a declaration that legislation is inconsistent with the Treaty of Waitangi. There is no tenable basis for a declaration of inconsistency with the Bill of Rights Act 1688. Section 3 of the Declaratory Judgments Act 1908 is of no assistance to the Kiwi Party.
Criminal Law – Sentence – Starting Point – Mitigation – Minimum Period of Imprisonment
Mr Felise was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to seven years imprisonment, with a minimum period of three years and six months imprisonment. He appeals on the grounds that the sentencing judge adopted a starting point that was too high, denied him a discount for his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and overlooked a causal link between the offending and his traumatic and deprived background. He also appeals against the imposition of a minimum period of imprisonment.
Was the sentence manifestly excessive?
Held: No. We are not persuaded the starting point was too high. The sentencing judge did not double count aggravating factors pursuant to R v Taueki  3 NZLR 372. Footage of the assault conveyed serious and measured violence. We also agree with the Judge Mr Felise’s PTSD had no causal connection to the offending which would affect the starting point. Discounts for personal factors were also adequate in this case. There is nothing in the record to show that PTSD contributed to the offending.
Was a minimum period of imprisonment appropriate?
Held: Yes. Mr Felise had fallen back into old patterns of behaviour only three years after being released from prison for a very serious violent offence in which he was fuelled by drink. He failed to absorb and apply the lessons of that experience and the treatment he received for substance abuse. There is need for accountability, denunciation and deterrence.