Skip to content. | Skip to navigation


Document Actions

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 Jiang
19 December 2019
[2019] NZHC 3442

The defendant appeared for sentence having been found guilty of the murder of his wife. In April 2018, the couple who are both Swiss nationals and were in their early 60s at the time, were in New Zealand on a tour. In the early hours of 27 April 2018, the couple had an argument over the defendant's emotional infidelity and the defendant strangled his wife. There was nothing unusual nor exceptional about the defendant's offending which would make a sentence of life imprisonment manifestly unjust. Having regard to the aggravating and mitigating factors of the case, and in light of cases in similar circumstances, a minimum period of 10 years' imprisonment was appropriate.

R v Lyttle
19 December 2019
[2019] NZHC 3375

Sentencing notes

T v New Zealand Police
18 December 2019
[2019] NZHC 3375

Appeal against a sentence of three years' imprisonment on a lead charge of strangulation dismissed.

Following an argument with the victim, the appellant threatened and assaulted her, rendering her unconscious. When she came to, he dragged her into her home, isolated her in her bedroom and did not allow her to leave. He then strangled her, again rendering unconscious and also incontinent.

While strangulation has been a stand-alone offence since December 2018, there have been very few appeals to the Senior Courts. Further, it is only relatively recently that strangulation within the context of domestic relationships has attracted the attention of policy makers and scientific research. Certain features of this sort of offending are particularly concerning: the real possibility of permanent brain injury or death; the psychological control and coercion inherent in the offending; and the increased risk of a future fatal attack.

It is necessary to undertake a full evaluation of the circumstances of each case of strangulation in a domestic context and the courts must be aware of and responsive to the impact of this type of offending on victims.

The three-year starting point adopted by the Judge was lenient in the circumstances. Therefore, after all mitigating factors were taken into account, the end sentence was not manifestly excessive.

Joyce v Hooton
17 December 2019
[2019] NZHC 3356

The plaintiff sought declaratory and indemnity costs relief under the Defamation Act against the second defendant (which publishes the NBR), alleging two passages in an NBR article defamed him; and the third defendant (the sole director and shareholder of the second defendant), regarding three tweets said to endorse the article. The specific article passages are defamatory. A reasonable reader would conclude the plaintiff was prepared to engage in unethical and improper behaviour in pursuit of his (rather than his party's) political objectives. The imputations are untrue. The meaning of the tweets is the article, or at least its defamatory imputations, was true. As untrue, the tweets are defamatory. The second and third defendant are each liable in defamation. Declarations of defendants' liability in defamation made. Plaintiff awarded solicitor and client costs.

R v Frater
16 December 2019
[2019] NZHC 3326

Defendant sentenced to five years' imprisonment for manslaughter of an eight month old baby.

Helilogging Limited (in receivership and liquidation) v Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand
13 December 2019
[2019] NZHC 3305

High Court dismisses claims that former Director of the CAA and his advisers acted dishonestly when rejecting applications to allow a company to engage in heli-logging activities.

R v Leung & Ors
13 December 2019
[2019] NZHC 3299

Six defendants sentenced for their roles in three importations of methamphetamine between October 2016 and October 2017 totalling 267 kgs. The methamphetamine was contained in gypsum and concealed in a shipment of outdoor furniture (specifically, in concrete umbrella stands). The Court adopted the following starting points, applying the new guidance from Zhang v R: 30 years for Ricky Leung (organised the importations by arriving in NZ in advance and setting up businesses and storage); 26.5 years for Chiu (oversaw the handling and extraction of the methamphetamine once arrived); 23 years for Li (handled various administrative responsibilities); 21 years for Chiang and Tan (workers tasked with extracting the methamphetamine); and 20 years for Chi Leung (another worker but with less responsibility). All defendants received modest discounts for their prospects of rehabilitation and the added hardship imprisonment would have on them for reasons of cultural isolation. Two received further discounts for guilty pleas.

Driver v Radio New Zealand Limited
12 December 2019
[2019] NZHC 3275

Plaintiff's claims in defamation against five media defendants in respect of their reporting of the details of her arrest in India in December 2014, struck out.

Some claims for invasion of privacy also struck out. But the plaintiff has an arguable case in relation to her claims.

Chief Executive of the Department of Corrections v Waiti
11 December 2019
[2019] NZHC 3256

Application for extended supervision order granted. The offender's criminal history indicates he has, or had, a pervasive pattern of serious violent offending. Before determining the eligible offender's risk of committing a relevant violent offence, under s 1071AA(2)(a) the offender must have "a severe disturbance in behavioural functioning", characterised (broadly) by: violence, volatility and the "persistent harbouring of vengeful intentions". A literal construction of the section (which lacks clinical foundation) may not have been intended; it presents a threshold significantly above that needed for public protection orders. In light of the health assessors' reports and both parties' request for an ESO, there is sufficient evidence to establish severe disturbance in behavioural functioning, as well as the offender's limited self-regulatory capacity and lack of empathy for victims. There is a very high risk the offender will commit a relevant violent offence. An ESO is made, with a term of 5 years. The Parole Board is to impose an intensive monitoring condition. Special and intensive monitoring conditions are imposed on an interim basis.

Knowles v Queenstown Lakes District Council
09 December 2019
[2019] NZHC 3227

Judgment: Judicial review challenge to Council decision as to non-notification and consent for intensive residential development in inner Queenstown .

Whether Council failed to have sufficient regard to rezoning of site on basis rezoning was subject to appeal, when aware appeal likely to be struck out for want of Environment Court jurisdiction .

Whether Council wrongly attached weight to ability to development neighbouring site with high building when that site owned for purposes of keeping it vacant to protect views.

R v DeMarco
05 December 2019
[2019] NZHC 3209

Sentencing for fraud. Defendant worked as production manager for a company manufacturing vintage aircraft. Defendant entered into sales of three aircraft on behalf of the company at above ordinary prices and arranged with the CEO to keep the difference, claiming it was a gift from the purchaser, while the purchaser believed he was paying the ordinary price. Defendant also offered another aircraft as security for a loan without obtaining consent as required by an agreement with another victim. Defendant failed to disclose this agreement to the bank and misrepresented his entitlement to earn commissions from the vintage aircraft company .
Starting point of three years, six months adopted.

R v Kiwi
05 December 2019
[2019] NZHC 3194

The defendant appeared for sentence after being found guilty of conspiracy to murder and attempted murder. In 2002, the defendant agreed to kill the victim in exchange for payment in cannabis. Two months later, the defendant attacked the victim outside his property in the earlier hours of morning, shooting him in the arm. The defendant was charged in 2018. With two aggravating factors - premeditation and use of a lethal weapon - the offending sits towards the top end of a 5-10 year sentencing band. A starting point of eight years and six months' imprisonment is adopted. A six-month uplift to reflect the conspiracy is warranted; the transactional nature of the offending is significantly aggravating. There are no personal aggravating or mitigating features. End sentence of nine years' imprisonment imposed.

Aotearoa Water Action Inc v Canterbury Regional Council
05 December 2019
[2019] NZHC 3187

Hearing on 9/12/19 in High Court to hear challenge to ECan's granting of resource consents to allow commercial water bottling at Kaiapoi. High Court has allowed Ngāi Tūāhuriri Rūnanga to provide information and submissions to High Court on limited basis. Judge indicates hearing will not determine whether or to what extent Ngāi Tūāhuriri Rūnanga have rights of guardianship over water.

R v Pilitati
03 December 2019
[2019] NZHC 3164

Sentencing for murder. Defendant had previous altercation with street gang and perceived they were a threat to him. At around 12:30 am, noticed individual near his house wearing red. Approached him with armed associates, and fatally shot him. Offending was second strike. Defendant was young, had pleaded guilty and was suffering a fight-or-flight response at time of offending. Ten year minimum period of imprisonment appropriate. Manifestly unjust to impose life imprisonment without parole. Total sentence life imprisonment, with minimum period of imprisonment of 10 years.

R v Archer
02 December 2019
[2019] NZHC 3146

Mr Archer appeared for sentence having been found guilty of one charge of manslaughter. The jury must have found that he struck the two-year-old victim or caused her head to be struck, causing a catastrophic brain injury.

The Court adopted a starting point of 8 years 6 months. A discount of 15 per cent was applied to take into account Mr Archer's personal factors. No discount was applied for the pre-trial offer to plead guilty to manslaughter, as unlike other case law, the offer was made only informally.

In the result, Mr Archer was sentenced to 7 years 3 months' imprisonment.
An MPI of 50 per cent was also applied.

Cullen Group Limited v The Commissioner of Inland Revenue
29 November 2019
[2019] NZHC 3110

Applications by Cullen Group Ltd to stay enforcement of a costs award, set aside a statutory demand and restrain a liquidation proceeding are declined. Cullen Group, and those who control it, should pay the costs award if it wants to avoid liquidation.

Chief Executive of the Department of Corrections v Chisnall
28 November 2019
[2019] NZHC 3126

Mr Chisnall applies for declarations of inconsistency with various rights affirmed by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (BORA) in respect of the extended supervision order (ESO) and public protection order (PPO) regimes.

The ESO regime does amount to a penalty. A declaration in relation to a retrospective ESO should be made. However, a declaration of inconsistency should not be made in relation to the prospective application of an ESO, because there is the potential for individual cases where the limit is justified per s 5 of the BORA.

The PPO regime contains several punitive factors, but is not presumptively a penalty. No declaration of inconsistency is made in relation to PPOs.

R v Poihipi
22 November 2019
[2019] NZHC 3048

Sentence following conviction by jury for murder - victim was in a relationship with offender who assaulted her - mandatory sentence of life imprisonment of not less than 10 years applies - starting point for minimum period of imprisonment 12 years - global reduction of 18 months for youth and personal circumstances - final sentence life imprisonment with a minimum period of imprisonment of 10 years and six months.

R v Samuels
12 November 2019
[2019] NZHC 2948

Sentence of life imprisonment for murder with a minimum period of imprisonment of 17 years imposed.

Commerce Commission v Home Direct Limited
12 November 2019
[2019] NZHC 2943

The Commerce Commission applied for a declaration that terms contained in a standard form consumer contract were unfair, pursuant to s 461 of the Fair Trading Act 1986. Home Direct's standard form contract included a scheme whereby Home Direct would continue to debit a customer's account after they had paid off their purchases and convert those debited amounts into credit. The customer's credit could only be used for purchases from Home Direct, could not be refunded and expired after 12 months. The High Court declared that in combination the terms that disentitled the customers to refunds on their credit balance and deemed that credit balance as expiring after 12 months were unfair.

R v Lothian and Webby
11 November 2019
[2019] NZHC 2938

Murder sentencing, Section 104 applies. Mr Lothian on second strike. Life imprisonment without parole manifestly unjust. MPI of 18 years for murder, plus two years for other present convictions and two years for prior convictions. Two year discount for guilty plea, making 20 year MPI. Starting point for Mr Webby 17 years nine months' imprisonment, plus two years for other convictions, less two year discount for guilty plea.

R v Fangupo
07 November 2019
[2019] NZHC 2896

Sentencing for the importation of large amounts of methamphetamine and other serious offences post Zhang. Mr Kulu imported more than 20 kilograms of methamphetamine to New Zealand between June 2017 and January 2018. Mr Fangupo imported approximately 20 kilograms of methamphetamine in the same period. Each conspired with the other to import 21 kilograms. Mr Kulu and Mr Fangupo were joint equals in the offending and the operation's leading figures. Both instigated and ran the operation, exclusively for profit. Starting points of 20 years down to 5 years adopted. 

R v Heke-Gray
07 November 2019
[2019] NZHC 2841

Mr Heke-Gray faces sentence on charges, including serious sexual offending and perverting the course of justice. A starting point of 16 years, with a 9 month uplift for the perverting the course of justice offending (comprising a 12 month uplift with a 3-month discount for guilty plea) is appropriate. A 10% discount for Mr Heke-Gray's traumatic upbringing and systemic and social deprivation. A finite sentence of 15 years 1 month applies. An MPI of 50% is also appropriate. Given Mr Heke-Gray's entrenched denial of his offending, the Court imposed a sentence of preventive detention. He is sentenced to preventive detention with a minimum non-parol period of imprisonment of 7 years and 6 months.

R v Robertson
30 October 2019
[2019] NZHC 2773

Sentencing of Steven Robertson (PTT Limited) on 23 charges of theft by a person in a special relationship; 11 charges of obtaining by deception; and four charges of dishonest use of a document. Robertson operated various companies that sold software programmes to members of the public to assist them to trade in financial markets. Under the (false) guise that he would invest the money on their behalf, Mr Robertson stole significant sums of money from 22 mostly elderly and unsophisticated clients. He also falsely purported to sell a number of these clients shares in one of his associated companies, but simply used the funds for his own purposes, including funding a lavish lifestyle. Finally, on a few occasions, he stole money directly from client's credit card accounts. HELD: Starting point of seven years imprisonment adopted. Discount of four months (5%) for the provision of a binding undertaking not to oppose the distribution of his assets, and those of his family trust, to his creditors. Given the significant harm to the victims (many of whom now faced serious financial difficulties in retirement) and the need for deterrence of this type of offending, the Judge imposed a minimum period of imprisonment (MPI). On each charge Mr Robertson was sentenced to six years and eight months' imprisonment, to be served concurrently. An MPI of three years and four months' imprisonment was imposed on each charge.

McGuire v New Zealand Law Society
29 October 2019
[2019] NZHC 2748

High Court confirms obligation on lawyers to pay the fee of barristers who the lawyer instructs on behalf of a client.

R v Cutler
25 October 2019
[2019] NZHC 2737

Sentence - Mr Cutler is charged with dealing 10.2 kg of methamphetamine. He was in a logistical role, taking delivery of the methamphetamine concealed in packages delivered from overseas, transporting it to others and taking cash in return. This is the first sentencing since the Court of Appeal released its new guideline judgment for methamphetamine sentencing. Held: the quantity of drugs made this band 5 offending.  Mr Cutler's role was at the minor end of the "significant" role described by the Court of Appeal, as he was not merely a mule, his role involved some autonomy, but he was operating under instructions and had no management function or influence in the supply chain. This justifies a starting point of 12 years' imprisonment. He warrants discounts for personal mitigating features of 20 per cent, being for prospects of rehabilitation, hardship due to being imprisoned in a foreign country, and for remorse.  He is entitled to a 25 percent guilty plea. This brings the final sentence to seven years and two months' imprisonment.

R v Wereta
25 October 2019
[2019] NZHC 2734

Third-strike sentencing for the deliberate infliction of grievous bodily harm. Defendant repeatedly stabbed another prisoner and kicked his head. Offending motivated by inter-gang rivalry. HELD: Criteria for preventive detention satisfied. Defendant has an extensive history of violence and poses a high risk of violence. But, a minimum period of 14 years would be manifestly unjust. Important to the community the defendant has some hope of release-this may encourage reform. Preventive detention imposed with a minimum period of eight years. Discussion of seriousness of violent offending within prison. To treat this as less serious would promote the law of the jungle, not the rule of law.

R v Morgan
24 October 2019
[2019] NZHC 2718

Two defendants sentenced to life imprisonment, each with minimum periods of imprisonment of 17 years, for the murder of a woman in Nelson in February 2016. Defendants, one of whom was the nephew of the victim, entered into a contract with the victim's aunt to kill her in exchange for approximately $11,000 in methamphetamine and cash. The defendants devised a plan to induce an overdose with a cocktail of drugs, including GHB. They tested the GHB on their associates in the days preceding the murder. Various drugs were administered to the victim over the course of a day, but her body was too tolerant, so the defendants suffocated her with a pillow.