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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 Robertson
19 August 2019
[2019] NZHC 2032

Reasons for verdicts, following a lengthy Judge-alone trial of fraud-related charges . Defendant, Steven Robertson, found guilty of 38 charges and acquitted of a further six charges.

Robertson operated a business through various companies (primarily PTT Limited) selling computer software packages to members of the public, to assist them to trade on the financial markets . Mr Robertson offered to "trade on behalf ' of some customers and they advanced him money for that purpose. Mr Robertson did not trade those funds on the financial markets, however, and instead used those funds for his own purposes. This resulted in 23 convictions under s 220 of the Crimes Act 1961 (theft by a person in a special relationship). Some of these clients were then offered the "opportunity" to invest in one of Mr Robertson' s companies, or an overseas company yet to be incorporated. These were not genuine share sales, however, but a fraudulent scheme devised by Mr Robertson to extract further money from his clients, which he then spent for his own purposes. This resulted in 11 convictions under s 240 of the Crimes Act (obtaining by deception). On four occasions when his bank balances were low, Mr Robertson deducted payments from his client's credit cards, without their authority. This resulted in four convictions under s 228(1)(b) of the Crimes Act (dishonest use of a document).

Mitchell v NZ Police
16 August 2019
[2019] NZHC 2017

Mr Mitchell appealed against four convictions of contravening a restraining order. The appellant argued that the restraining order had been granted for an indefinite duration contrary to the Harassment Act 1997, and the convictions ought to be quashed. On appeal the issue was whether "period" as per s 21 of the Harassment Act 1997 permitted the granting of a restraining order for an indefinite duration . The plain meaning, the purpose of the statute and the desire to interpret the provision consistently with fundamental human rights favoured an interpretation that included only a finite duration. Reference to comparative jurisdictions suggested that had Parliament intended restraining orders to be of an indefinite nature this would have been expressly provided for in the Act. Section 21 of the Harassment Act 1997 did not permit the granting of an indefinite restraining order, and in the absence of a specified duration the order expired after the default period of one year. Mr Mitchell's conduct contravening the restraining order occurred after the default period had expired and could not form the basis of a conviction. The four convictions are quashed as are the corresponding sentences.


Dodds v Southern Response Earthquake Services Limited
16 August 2019
[2019] NZHC 2016
Media release

The plaintiffs (the Dodds) bring this claim against the defendant (Southern Response) pleading misrepresentation, misleading and deceptive conduct under s 9 Fair Trading Act (FTA), and breach of the insurers' duty of good faith. It arose in relation to the Dodd's property damaged in the 2010/2011 Canterbury earthquake sequence. The serious damage to the Dodds' house meant it was a rebuild. Their insurance policy allowed the Dodds to choose between having their house rebuilt, receiving a pay-out to purchase another house, or certain other options. Arrow International Ltd for Southern Response prepared a building report and cost estimate for rebuilding the house. Southern Response, in suggesting that if the Dodds chose not to rebuild they were not entitled to certain costs (exceeding $200,000) included in the report, removed those items from Arrow's complete building report and sent it to the Dodds as a guide to assist them in comparing their options. Southern Response did not inform them that the document had been modified. The Dodds later agreed to settle their claim for the amount in the modified estimate, to purchase a replacement house. By providing a modified report which they represented was the only and a complete building report and it could be relied upon, Southern Response had also engaged in deceptive and misleading conduct under the FTA and damages would have been awarded under s 9. These claims were not precluded by full and final settlement clauses in the signed Settlement Agreements as the claims were not reopening those Settlement Agreements, they were based on statute and related to the conduct of Southern Response in reaching the Settlement Agreements.
General damages of $15,000 each were sought by the Dodds but were not justified here. Damages of $178,894.30 and interest were ordered to be paid to the Dodds. Southern Response had also probably breached its obligation of good faith as an insurer but it was not necessary to make a finding on this point.

R v Nepia
09 August 2019
[2019] NZHC 1932

Mr Nepia pleaded guilty to one charge of manslaughter following a sentence indication. The defendant was walking his dogs, and walked past the victim, who was sitting on the side of the road with his own dogs. Their dogs began fighting, and the victim kicked the defendant's dogs. The defendant became angry and punched the victim once causing him to fall backwards, hitting his head. He tragically died. The indication was for a sentence of two years and seven months' imprisonment. But this is reduced to 8 months' home detention to account for the defendant's remorsefulness, support from the victim's family, the defendant's difficult upbringing, relative youth and the strong rehabilitation prospects.

Ngāti Mutunga O Wharekauri Iwi Trust v Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations
09 August 2019
2019] NZHC 1942

The Court dismissed an application by Ngāti Mutanga o Wharekauri for interim orders preventing the Crown entering a Deed of Settlement with Moriori over historic Treaty grievances concerning the Chatham Islands. The Court concluded that Ngāti Mutanga's claims that the entry of the Deed breached its legitimate expectations had very little prospect of success, and that even if there were claims with more merit the Court would only interfere with such Treaty settlement decisions if there were very compelling reasons.

R v Smith
07 August 2019
[2019] NZHC 1910

Mrs Smith pleaded guilty to one charge of murder of her granddaughter. The Court concluded it was manifestly unjust to sentence her to life imprisonment. Ms Smith's life had been marked by hardship. She had cared for her children, and then her grandchildren, and issues of disability, mental health, and violence were involved.

She had a moderately severe recurrent depressive disorder. Up until offending had appeared to be a committed grandmother, and the offending was completely out of character, but suffered from severe emotional, physical and mental exhaustion, and became overwhelmed by her circumstances. The Court imposed 12 years' imprisonment. Given the youth of the victim, and elements of premeditation, a minimum term of imprisonment of six years was imposed.

R v Tapaevalu & Tufui
02 August 2019
[2019] NZHC 1867

Murder and attempted murder sentencing: two defendants involved in incident with offender who shot two victims. Neither defendant fired shots but both assisted principal offender. Sentenced to life imprisonment with MPI of 19 years and 17 years respectively.

Busby v IAG New Zealand Ltd
01 August 2019
[2019] NZHC 1852
Media release

Proceedings transferred from High Court to the Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal, despite opposition from insurer. Novel and complex points of law should not prevent transfer.

McDonald and Agricola Enterprises Ltd v Ministry for Primary Industries
01 August 2019
[2019] NZHC 1844

Appeal against conviction under s 12 of the Animal Welfare Act 1999. Appellants are the company owning a dairy farm and its director and farm manager. Both were charged and convicted of representative charges. Charges arose from an unusually high number of cows being found to have broken tails. Appeal on grounds of improper reliance on expert evidence, reversal of onus of proof, failure to rule on admissibility of evidence, and failure to distinguish between old and new cows for charges. Found expert evidence not improperly relied upon; evidence was properly utilised to show higher than expected proportion of tail breaks in herd. Judge properly reasoned beyond reasonable doubt based on that circumstantial and opinion evidence. Judge made no error on onus of proof; the absence of an explanation from the defence simply left the Judge in the position where the only explanation reasonably available from the evidence was a proportion of the broken tails were the result of stock mishandling to the point where s 12 was engaged. Allegedly inadmissible evidence did not form part of reasoning, so cannot have caused miscarriage of justice . Finally, there was sufficient distinguishing between cows with new injuries and those with older injuries to support separation of the charges into two such groups. Appeal dismissed.

Capital Liquor Limited v The New Zealand Police
31 July 2019
[2019] NZHC 1846

Capital Liquor appealed the imposition of a 6pm trading time on its licence. In this judgment reasons were given for the earlier dismissal of Capital Liquor's appeal. There was ample evidence before the licensing body for it to reach the "overwhelming view" that Capital Liquor was one of the most high risk off-licences in central Wellington, calling for exceptional management practices on the part of the licensee. The appellant was not suitable to manage a high risk premise during evening hours. Its breaches of the new licensing condition exemplified its causal disregard for regulatory compliance. Restatement of the principle that economic considerations are not relevant to licensing decisions.

R v Stewart
26 July 2019
[2019] NZHC 1797

R v Stewart: Sentence of three and a half years' imprisonment for manslaughter, where dangerous driving caused death.

R v Taani
23 July 2019
[2019] NZHC 1746

Mr Taani has pleaded guilty following a sentence indication to one charge of murder and one charge of attempted murder. This is his sentencing. The offending involved Mr Taani and two other co-defendants, who have been found guilty at trial. Mr Taani shot the victims, husband and wife, on the side of a road, in the course of a drug deal.
Mr Tu'uheava died. Mrs Tu'uheava, miraculously survived. She was shot twice in the head and twice in the arm.
HELD: On the charge of murder Mr Taani is sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum period of imprisonment of 17 and a half years. On the charge of attempted murder he is sentenced to 11 years and two months' imprisonment, to be served concurrently.

R v Milne
19 July 2019
[2019] NZHC 1703

Sentencing for one charge of injuring with intent to cause GBH, four of injuring with reckless disregard and one of dangerous driving. Mr Milne deliberately drove into a car after a sustained chase, causing it to flip. All five occupants were hospitalised. A start point of four years six months is appropriate; the attack was aggravated by the multiple victims, duration, and use of a car, but does not contain the element of serious premeditation contended by the Crown. Although appalling racial slurs were used, the offending itself was not caused by racial hostility; Mr Milne would likely have reacted similarly regardless of the identity of the victims.

After discounts for youth and rehabilitation, remorse and reparations, and guilty plea, an end sentence of 2 years, 6 months' imprisonment imposed.

Re Westland Co-operative Dairy Co Ltd
18 July 2019
[2019] NZHC 1683

Application for approval of a Scheme arrangement. Scheme arrangement related to the purchase of 100 percent of the shares in Westland Co-operative Dairy Company Ltd by Hongkong Jingang Trade Holding Co Ltd. The Court made initial orders for a shareholders' meeting to be held to enable shareholders to consider and if they supported it to approve the Scheme. At the shareholders' meeting the Scheme was passed by a majority of 93.79 percent of shareholders entitled to vote and voting, and passed by majority of 89.87 per cent of total number of votes of shareholders entitled to vote.

The Takeovers Panel had no objection to the Scheme proceeding under the Companies Act. The Overseas Investment Office consented to the proposal.

The Court was satisfied relevant statutory provisions have been complied with, the proposed Scheme had been fairly put to the shareholders who were properly informed and fairly represented at the meeting. The Court was also satisfied the arrangement might reasonably be approved by a reasonably intelligent business person acting in their own interests and was overall fair and equitable. Orders approving the Scheme accordingly.


Commissioner of Police v Yim
18 July 2019
[2019] NZHC 1681

Successful application by the Commissioner of Police for civil forfeiture orders under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009. Court satisfied the first and second respondents were involved in substantial criminal activity involving the importation and sale of methamphetamine, money laundering and tax offences. Assets forfeiture order granted as various assets were acquired or derived, wholly or partly, from that involvement. Profit forfeiture granted as the respondents unlawfully benefitted from the significant criminal activity in excess of the value of the forfeited assets. The respondents failed to show a credible legitimate source of the assets and profits, or the resulting forfeiture orders would cause undue hardship. Counsel to agree to formal orders in accordance with this judgment.

Sellman v Slater
17 July 2019
[2019] NZHC 1666

Mr Cameron Slater submits he is no longer a party to defamation proceedings brought against him because he has been made bankrupt. The Court makes explicit that a term and condition of its order the proceeding may continue against him is that he must comply with the orders made against him to provide further discovery and attend court to be orally examined. If he wishes to oppose the plaintiffs' application that he comply with the orders or be held in contempt, he must file a notice of opposition and supporting affidavit.

R v Church
12 July 2019
[2019] NZHC 1642

The defendant is unfit to stand trial, in terms of s 8A of the Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act 2003. His treatment-resistant schizophrenia is a mental impairment. Due to that impairment, he more likely than not is unable: to defend himself or to instruct counsel; to plead; to adequately understand the nature or purpose or possible consequences of the proceedings; and to communicate adequately with counsel for the purposes of conducting a defence.

R v Wakefield
12 July 2019
[2019] NZHC 1629

Minimum period of imprisonment (MPI) of 14 years 9 months imposed for reckless, non-intentional murder of an infant by shaking.
Victim's vulnerability would, pursuant to s 104 of the Sentencing Act 2002, presumptively warrant MPI of 17 years or more. Without  s 104, starting point of 15.5 years adopted, with range of mitigating factors warranting nine month reduction in MPI. Difference between appropriate MPI in absence of s 104 and 17 years as directed by that section would make it manifestly unjust to impose MPI of 17 years.

R v Brackenridge
12 July 2019
[2019] NZHC 1627

The defendant appeared for sentence on charges of murder, arson, and dishonest use of a bankcard. While suffering from drug-induced schizophrenia, the defendant strangled his mother after having delusional thoughts about her. He then effectively cleared her bank account, and set fire to her home (with her body remaining inside). Life imprisonment not manifestly unjust; defendant remains at a high risk of serious offending if his mental state deteriorates. His rehabilitative prospects, remorse and mental disorder warranted discounts from a starting minimum term of 13 years; minimum term of 10 years imposed.

Paine v Carter Holt Harvey Ltd
11 July 2019
[2019] NZHC 1614

The plaintiffs have brought a representative claim against Carter Holt in relation to Shadowclad,  form of external cladding. The claim is representative, and funded a by an offshore litigation funder. Carter Holt applied to stay the claim as an abuse of process. It alleged the claim had been brought without permission under r 4.24 of the High Court Rules; the plaintiffs' solicitor made misleading statements in promoting the claim; and funding arrangements are objectionable. The High Court dismissed Carter Holt's application.

R v Vea
09 July 2019
[2019] NZHC 1587

Sentencing for murder. Offender ambushed the victim in his home, whom he suspected was having an affair with his wife, and killed him with a machete. Life imprisonment imposed. Further, s 104 of the Sentencing Act engaged since the killing was particularly brutal and involved the unlawful entry into the victim's home. Provisional MPI of 17-and-a-half years nominally reduced by one year to reflect the offender's remorse, early guilty plea and an offer by his family to make amends in the form of the ifoga process. Regardless, a 17-year MPI held not to be manifestly unjust. The offender's personal and cultural background contextualised the offending, but did not justify it in any way. 17-year MPI therefore adopted.

Calver v Accident Compensation Corporation
08 July 2019
[2019] NZHC 1581
Media release

The claimant was denied ACC cover for mesothelioma caused by non-occupational exposure to asbestos. The claimant has since died but her estate pursued the matter on her behalf.  
The High Court has allowed the appeal. The Court has found that mesothelioma is a personal injury as defined by the Act. It is caused by an accident, as defined by the Act, because it was caused by inhaling a foreign object (asbestos) on a specific occasion. Cover under the Act was therefore available.

R v Bahadori-Esfahani
02 July 2019
[2019] NZHC 1532

Sentencing decision for charges of dangerous driving causing death, driving with excess breath alcohol and failure to stop to ascertain injury or death after crash. Aggravating factors for the lead charge were driving at excessive speed in city centre, driving to avoid apprehension and prolonged bad driving including failure to stop for red lights. Uplift on lead charge for associated charges. Starting point of five and a half years' imprisonment adopted. Discount awarded for mitigating factors of the defendant's yough, genuine remorse, guilty plea and clean driving and criminal history. Sentence of three years, eight months' imprisonment imposed.

R v Baker
28 June 2019
[2019] NZHC 1499

Murder sentencing following guilty plea. Section 104 Sentencing Act 2002 factors (home invasion, murder committed in course of aggravated burglary and high level of brutality, cruelty or callousness) present to extent justifying application of 17 year MPI, plus one year uplift. Reduction of one year for guilty plea. End sentence life imprisonment with 17 year MPI.

Minister of Education v H Construction North Island Ltd (in rec and liq)
26 June 2019
[2019] NZHC 1459

Partially successful non-party costs award following Minister of Education v H Construction North Island Ltd [2018] NZHC 871

Waho v Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust
21 June 2019
[2019] NZHC 1440

Mr Waho, the plaintiff, was unlawfully removed as a trustee of the Te Kohanga Reo National Trust. An earlier (costs liability) judgment determined he was entitled to be indemnified for his costs. The next stage was to assess the reasonableness of the costs incurred. Held: Having brought before the Court a matter which was in the interests of the Trust to have brought before the Court the plaintiff is entitled to be indemnified fully for his expenses. The defendant did not discharge the onus on it of demonstrating the plaintiffs costs were unreasonably incurred. The defendant is to pay Mr Waho's costs and disbursement of $583,483.08 less the sum already paid to him.

R v Gosset & Anor
17 June 2019
[2019] NZHC 1366

Sentencing: Two co-defendants sentenced to life imprisonment for murder. Found s 104 Sentencing Act 2002 was not engaged by a fine margin. Starting MPI of 16 years adopted, uplifts given for previous convictions. No discounts due to unwillingness by both to take responsibility. MPls of 17 and a half years and 16 and a half years imposed. Concurrent sentences imposed for lesser charges of possessing firearms, ammunition and methamphetamine for supply.

Craig v Stringer
17 June 2019
[2019] NZHC 1363

For Mr Craig to be able to pursue his defamation claim against Mr Stringer would either require Ms MacGregor to give evidence and be cross-examined for a fourth time about whether Mr Craig sexually harassed her or would put Mr Stringer at a significant disadvantage in his defence. It would be oppressive to Ms MacGregor or Mr Stringer. Mr Craig has had, and continues to have, plenty of access to justice on this subject, in other proceedings. I consider it would be an abuse of the High Court's processes for the claim to continue. I stay his proceeding and the causes of action in Mr Stringer's claim in response that relates to the same subject. I also order Mr Stringer to give further discovery, I give Mr Craig permission to have a lawyer as a MacKenzie friend and I order Mr Stringer to provide security for costs in his proceeding.

Webster v NZ Police
13 June 2019
[2019] NZHC 1335

Mr Colin Webster was convicted of assaulting a police officer in the execution of his duty and possessing an offensive weapon, after calling Police to his home for assistance in dealing with his methamphetamine-addicted son. The appeal of both convictions is upheld. The police officer was not lawfully on Mr Webster's property and, therefore, was not in the execution of his duty. And the evidence does not sustain Mr Webster intending to use a metal pole to cause bodily injury or having no reasonable excuse to hold it. Accordingly, there was a miscarriage of justice and both convictions are quashed.

R v Wheble
11 June 2019
[2019] NZHC 1301

Sentencing for attempted murder. Second strike offence. Offender approached fellow inmate in communal prison area and slashed his throat with a razor blade. He made two more unsuccessful attempts to cut his throat and then stomped on his head when he was on the ground, followed by six kicks to the head and body. The Court adopted a starting point of 10 years imprisonment, distinguishing it from more serious attempted murders in the prison environment where the victim was intentionally isolated from potential support. No uplift imposed for previous offending due to the offender having to serve the entire sentence without parole. A discount of 10 percent provided for various personal factors.

Craig v Slater
06 June 2019
[2019] NZHC 1269

Costs judgment in defamation proceeding Craig v Slater [2018] NZHC 2712. 3B costs allocated to Slater as the successful party. Craig succeeded only in proving that he did not place his press secretary, Rachel MacGregor, under financial pressure to sleep with him and that he did not sexually harass another woman. Craig failed on all other significant pleaded causes of action, including particularly the principal allegation that he had sexually harassed Ms MacGregor. Costs award to Slater reduced by 10 percent to reflect Craig's limited success.
The Court held that costs should lie where they fall in respect of the counterclaim. Craig protected by response to an attack privilege, but Slater succeeded in proving the statements about his journalistic integrity were not true. Because it is difficult to identify precisely those costs incurred by Slater in respect of the counterclaim, a discount of 10 percent applied to reflect those costs lying where they fall.

Mr Slater's claim for indemnity costs failed because the Court accepted that Mr Craig did not know he had sexually harassed Ms MacGregor when bringing the proceeding, due largely to his oblivious and self-involved perception of their professional and personal relationship. He therefore did not bring the proceeding vexatiously or frivolously.

Final disposition of costs awards as follows: first, Slater shall not receive costs for any interlocutory steps taken in respect of the counterclaim; costs in respect of pretrial preparation and trial appearances reduced by 10 percent to reflect the aspect of those costs expended in relation to the counterclaim lying where they fall; 90 percent of the remaining sum payable by Mr Craig to reflect the limited success he had on the substantive claim.


R v Apperley
06 June 2019
[2019] NZHC 1267

Preventive detention with a 10-year minimum period of imprisonment imposed on Apperley (aged 39) who pleaded guilty to 14 mostly representative charges of sexual violation (as principal, party and for attempts), assault with a weapon and making and possessing objectionable publications. Finite sentence considered inadequate for protecting the community.

R v Beaumont
31 May 2019
[2019] NZHC 1235

Sentencing on charges of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm ("GBH"), threatening to kill and wilful trespass.

Result: sentenced to four years and 10 months' imprisonment on charges of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. On the charge of threatening to kill, sentenced to six months' imprisonment to be served concurrently, and on the charge of wilful trespass, sentenced to two months' imprisonment, also to be served concurrently.

R v Gosling
31 May 2019
[2019] NZHC 1233

Sentencing on one charge of manslaughter and to one charge of excess blood alcohol causing injury.

Result: On the charge of manslaughter sentenced to four years four months and two weeks' imprisonment. On the charge of driving with excess blood alcohol sentenced to two years' imprisonment, to be served concurrently. Two years disqualification from driving and ordered to pay reparation for the cost of the blood alcohol analysis fees in the sum of $109.25.

R v Jenkins
31 May 2019
[2019] NZHC 1231

NZHC releases decision in R v Jenkins ordering the defendant be detained in hospital as a special patient following a finding that he is unfit to stand trial for a charge of murder

Greymouth Petroleum Mining Group Ltd v Minister of Energy and Resources
31 May 2019
[2019] NZHC 1222

Application for judicial review by holder of petroleum mining permit challenging regulator’s power to impose condition under Crown Minerals Act 1991 requiring partial surrender of parts of permit area where presence of commercially producible hydrocarbons had not been established.  Also claims that regulator had misinterpreted the effect of such a condition, and that regulator’s proposal on how the permit holder could comply with partial surrender condition constituted wrongful exercise of a statutory power. These claims dismissed. Separate arguments on application of conditions for submission of work programmes upheld. 

R v Gray
23 May 2019
[2019] NZHC 1135

Hayden Gray had been convicted, following a Judge-alone trial, on two charges of intentionally causing  grievous bodily harm to his infant son. On the second incident he inflicted serious and permanent brain damage. Some 10 days earlier he had  inflicted multiple rib fractures. ((2019] NZHC 941). His son died one year and one day later. Mr Gray has been sentenced on the charges to 10.5 years and 8 years respectively to be served concurrently.

Stan Semenoff Logging Limited v New Zealand Transport Agency
23 May 2019
[2019] NZHC 1133

The NZTA revoked SSL’s transport licence. It found the persons in control were not fit and proper persons to hold the licence.  SSL sought an extension of an interim preserving order.  The Court found SSL has a reasonably arguable case that NZTA was obliged to, but failed to make, specific findings about the fitness of each person in control. Public safety did not preclude the extension. The interim order was extended. The Court also granted permission to specified media to receive a copy of a secret video recording of Mr Semenoff. The principle of open justice outweighed Mr Semenoff’s privacy interests.