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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 Santos
18 October 2019
[2019] NZHC 2670

Mr Santos pleaded guilty to one charge of attempted murder. He appears for sentencing.

The victim was Mr Santos' former girlfriend. He posed as someone else using a fake Facebook profile, lured her to a public street, then stabbed her upwards of twenty times with a carving knife, inflicting life-threatening injuries. The aggravating factors of the offending include the fact the attack was pre-planned, it was motivated by jealousy on Mr Santos' part, the attack involved extreme violence with a lethal weapon, and the victim was vulnerable and suffered serious injuries. A starting point of 10 years' imprisonment is therefore appropriate, having regard to the relevant authorities.

Mr Santos' mitigating factors include his youth {he was 18 at the time of the offending), his difficulty in coping emotionally with the offending, his remorse and the fact he understands what caused his offending and is taking steps to address that, his suicidal ideation, and his supportive family. A discount of 25 percent, comprising 15 percent for youth, 5 percent to acknowledge the potential to rehabilitate and 5 percent for remorse is appropriate. A guilty plea discount of 20 per cent is also appropriate.

Mr Santos is therefore sentenced to 6 years' imprisonment, and also receives a first strike warning.

R v Borton
18 October 2019
[2019] NZHC 2662

Mr Borton appears for sentence after he pleaded guilty to an horrific incident of violence and sexual abuse on a mother and daughter. There are a number of convictions, the most serious of which are murder and indecent assault of the mother, and sexual violation and serious violence on the 12-year-old daughter. He is also convicted of aggravated burglary for unlawfully entering the house with the murder weapon, a mallet which he had previously  stolen from the same house.  For the murder, the Court imposed life imprisonment with a minimum period of imprisonment of 19 years. There were significant aggravating factors such as the unlawful entry, the extreme use of violence, the sexually motivated indignities and the callousness of the incident. For the sexual offending, the Court also imposed a sentence of preventive detention, finding a finite sentence on the sexual offending of 12 years. Again, aggravating factors included premeditation, extreme use of violence, the prolonged nature of the incident, and, again, the cruelty of the offending.

R v Kaienua
11 October 2019
[2019] NZHC 2586

Mr Kaienua appears for sentence after being found guilty of being a party to one charge of assault with intent to rob and one charge of aggravated wounding.  Mr Kaienua was involved in a dairy robbery, where two shopkeepers were stabbed and one was severely injured.  Mr Kaienua was the lookout, and not the primary offender. This is Mr Kaienua's third strike, so the Court must sentence him to the maximum sentence of 14 years' imprisonment. The sentence must be imposed without parole unless that would be manifestly unjust. Held: Mr Kaienua is sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment on both charges, to be served concurrently. It would be manifestly unjust to impose the sentence without parole.

R v Church
07 October 2019
[2019] NZHC 2543

Involvement and disposition hearing for defendant found unfit to stand trial on a charge of murdering his father. The available material is sufficient to establish the defendant, on the balance of probabilities, caused his father's death. His treatment-resistant schizophrenia and intellectual disability presents both immediate and longer-term risks to himself and the public. The public needs to be protected, and the defendant requires comprehensive management and treatment. An order is made to detain the defendant in a hospital as a special patient under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992.

Terry v Police
04 October 2019
[2019] NZHC 2517

On 9 May 2017 2 farm workers moving sheep on Old Dunstan Road in the Maniatoto saw a person driving past them in a utility with hunting dogs in a box on the back. They watched the vehicle leave the road and go onto Ida Valley Station. Mr Terry had previously been given a trespass notice not to go onto the Station. He was charged with trespass and unlawful hunting. It is presumed he went onto the Station to hunt if he was there in a vehicle with hunting dogs. He denied ever leaving the road. On appeal the High Court agreed with the District Court Judge that Mr Terry was not a credible witness.

Moncrief-Spittle v Regional Facilities Auckland Limited
30 September 2019
[2019] NZHC 2399

Unsuccessful application for judicial review of RFAL's - a council-controlled organisation - decision to cancel an event at the Bruce Mason Centre (BMC). RFAL is the trustee of RFA, in which ownership of the BMC is vested. Any promotion of community wellbeing lies with the Council. RFA only provides the 'high quality conduit' through its provision, development and operation of the BMC. RFAL did not exercise any public power in cancelling the event. Its decision was unaffected by any mayoral view, being founded on legitimate security concerns. Its decision is not subject to judicial review. Despite the applicants' genuine interests, RFAL's lack of public power/function means neither has standing.

R v Gray
19 September 2019
[2019] NZHC 2364

Defendant sentenced to two years one month imprisonment for manslaughter. The victim struck his head after being pushed over. In the lower range of manslaughter sentences, but defendant left the victim unconscious in the street.
Significant personal mitigating circumstances, including deprived background characteristic of systemic deprivation of Maori.

R v Carr & Anderson
17 September 2019
[2019] NZHC 2335

Sentencing for multiple aggravated robberies and robberies, including Armourguard cash vans. Starting point of 18 years' imprisonment for Mr Carr. Ten percent discount for late guilty pleas to a handful of offences, and for formal admissions at trial. Sentence: 16 years' imprisonment. MPI of 50 percent. Other offender involved in only two robberies. Starting point of six years' imprisonment. Ten percent discount for late guilty pleas. Sentence of five years and 10 months; MPI unnecessary as offending a second­ strike. Defendants sought a 20 percent discount based on a cultural report. Discussion of principle. Causation and correlation not synonymous. HELD: no linkage demonstrated

Commerce Commission v Ronovation Limited
13 September 2019
[2019] NZHC 2303

Ronovation provides advice to residential property investors in Auckland. In 2011 Ronovation implemented "Priority Rules" to prevent group members competing against each other. Up to 471 properties, over a seven year period, were potentially impacted. (This is the first case brought by Commission involving a "buyer side" cartel.) Ronovation admitted that the Priority Rules breached the Commerce Act and agreed to pay a penalty of $400,000, subject to Court approval. Patties agreed on penalty, but disagreed on the relevance or weight that should be attributed to ce1tain aggravating or mitigating factors. HELD: Type of conduct involved was moderately serious. Buyer-side cartels are not intrinsically less harmful that seller-side cartels, albeit each case will turn on own facts. Actual harm resulting, however, was at the lower end of the spectrum and primarily impacted individual vendors, rather than the market as a whole. Conduct was deliberately anticompetitive, but did not involve a deliberate flouting of the law. Any commercial gain to Ronovation (a small company of limited resources) was minimal. A $400,000 penalty would achieve the objectives of specific and general deterrence. Declaration that conduct contravened ss27 and 30 of the Act. Ronovation ordered to pay $400,000 penalty.

Craig v McGregor
06 September 2019
[2019] NZHC 2247

This case forms another part of the defamation proceedings that are the fall out from the collapse of the Conservative Party following the 2014 election. The collapse was coupled with allegations about a relationship between Mr Craig, the leader of the party, and Ms MacGregor, his press secretary. This proceeding is directly between those two parties. Mr Craig and Ms MacGregor are suing each other for various statements each made about the other. Broadly, Ms MacGregor sues Mr Craig for suggesting she made false claims he sexually harassed her, that she was a liar, that she had acted inappropriately, and that she had no capability to manage her finances. Mr Craig sues Ms MacGregor for suggesting he sexually harassed her, that he was a bad employer, that he had lied, and that he had been abusive to other women, including the mother of his adopted daughter. Broadly put, the Court holds that Mr Craig did sexually harass Ms MacGregor, that he did suggest she was a liar, and that he lied when he suggested the claims were false. But the Court also finds that Mr Craig was not a bad employer, at least in the ways suggested, and that he had not been abusive to other women in he ways suggested. The Court finds it was at least substantially true that Ms MacGregor had no capability to manage her finances at the relevant time. In the result, both parties have succeeded in some of their claims, but failed in others.

Henderson v Walker
03 September 2019
[2019] NZHC 2184

Mr Henderson (former director) sued Mr Walker (liquidator) for sharing his personal documents from a laptop obtained by police under search warrants. Invasion of privacy­ Tort not limited to circumstances involving "widespread publicity".
Giving laptop data to Official Assignee involved reasonable expectation of privacy and was highly offensive. Breach of confidence
- Following Hosking v Runting, an obligation of confidence requires a relationship of confidence. Compulsory acquisition of documents created such a relationship. Conversion claim dismissed. Digital assets can be converted, but only if plaintiff deprived of possession. Sharing copies not a conversion.

R v Douthett
29 August 2019
[2019] NZHC 2214
Arps v New Zealand Police
27 August 2019
[2019] NZHC 2113

Mr Arps appealed his sentence of 21 months' imprisonment for distributing the March 15 video to 30 people and having it edited objectionably. He argued the sentence was manifestly excessive and that he should have received home detention. The High Court held the sentencing Judge was correct to find that there was harm caused by the offending, that Mr Arps' previous discriminatory offending was relevant, and that Mr Arps' personal views could be taken into account in relation to his remorse and likelihood of rehabilitation. Home detention would not sufficiently deter and denounce his offending. The appeal was dismissed.

Davey v Police
27 August 2019
[2019] NZHC 2107

Appeal against convictions for refusing to permit a blood specimen and resisting police. Whether constable's implied licence to be on private property revoked before he exercised coercive powers. Right to revoke considered in relation to three occupants who spoke to he officer.
Held: Implied licence revoked. No lawful basis for requirement to undertake breath screening test nor for subsequent arrest. Appeal allowed.

R v Balkind
23 August 2019
[2019] NZHC 2095

Sentence of four years 3 months imprisonment imposed for manslaughter of husband. Even if the defendant did act in self-defence, she responded with grossly disproportionate force.

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 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.