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 (PDF, 211 KB). 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.
HELD: application declined. Although haircutting engages rights under international law, NZBORA, Corrections Act 2004, Corrections Regulations 2005, the applicant had been offered a bespoke solution by Corrections. Further, there was no evidence that the facilities provided would undermine the applicant's dignity. "Proper care" of the hair to be interpreted objectively, not on subjective views of applicant (although cultural and religious factors are relevant).
Mr Zhang seeks discharge without conviction. HELD: (1) the offending is moderate in seriousness; (2) there is insufficient evidence that he impacts on Mr Zhang's standing in the community and ability to travel to the US are a consequence of conviction rather than offending; impact on standing also an ordinary consequence; and (3) consequences are not out of all proportion to the offending - application declined.
MR ZHANG: starting point - 15 months' imprisonment; no aggravating personal factors warranting an uplift; discount of 25 per cent given for personal mitigating factors; end sentence 4 months' community detention (with a daily curfew from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am) and 200 hours' community work.
MR COLIN ZHENG: starting point- 21 months' imprisonment; no aggravating personal factors warranting an uplift; discount of 20 per cent given for personal mitigating factors; end sentence 5 months' community detention (daily curfew from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am) and 250 hours community work.
MR JOE ZHENG: starting point - 12 months' imprisonment (8 months' for the obtaining by deception offending and 4 months for misleading the SFO offending); no aggravating personal factors warranting an uplift; discount of 15 per cent given for personal mitigating factors; end sentence - 2 months' community detention (daily curfew from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am) and 100 hours community work for obtaining by deception, and 1 month's community detention (daily curfew from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am) and 50 hours community work for providing misleading information to the SFO - to be served cumulatively.
Appellants claimed EnvC: failed to apply the interpretation of Regional Policy Statement, Policy B2.2.2(2)(j) on elite soils set out by the High Court; failed to properly assess mana whenua issues and breached natural justice; and did not apply the correct test for accepting the appellants' evidence for Structure Plan Guidelines under RPS Policy B2.2.2(2)(f) and Appendix 1 of the Auckland Unitary Plan (AUP).
HELD: appeal declined. EnvC correctly interpreted and applied elite soils test; not required to direct or facilitate consultation between appellants and mana whenua beyond what had already been done; reasonably assessed the available evidence; not required to set out standard of information required under Structure Plan Guidelines for the appellants. RUB location remains as per original Council decision.
LCANZ challenged the Commission’s Advice on four grounds: 1) the NDC Advice was based on a logical or mathematical error; 2) the Commission misinterpreted the statutory purpose in relation to the emissions budgets; 3) the Commission misinterpreted the statutory provisions relating to the measurement of emissions for the purposes of setting and meeting the Budgets, specifically, by recommended modified activity-based accounting (MAB); and 4) the proposed emissions budgets were irrational, unreasonable and inconsistent with the purpose of the Act.
Held: All grounds of review are dismissed. The Commission did not make a mathematical or logical error in its NDC Advice, although it could have set out its approach more clearly. The Commission did not misinterpret the statutory purpose of the Climate Change Response Act, but correctly understood that emissions budgets are set having regard to the mandatory relevant considerations and with both the 2050 Target and global 1.5˚C goal in mind. The Commission did not err in law by recommending MAB as the accounting methodology for measuring progress towards meeting the emissions budgets and 2050 Target as the legislation did not mandate annual national inventory reporting under the UNFCCC. The Commission did not act irrationally, unreasonably or inconsistently with the statutory purpose when recommending emissions budgets. Parliament did not task the Commission with a particular model by which to recommend budgets that would contribute to the 1.5˚C goal. The Commission’s approach was sufficiently justified by the reasoning and the information on which it was based. LCANZ failed to show that the Commission’s Advice fell outside its task to provide advice consistent with the purpose of the Act.
- MR  NZHC 3064 (PDF, 146 KB)
By the same Act, every prisoner who makes an outgoing telephone call may be required to meet the cost of the call or pay a fee set by the chief executive of the Department of Corrections. Serco, which manages Auckland South Corrections Facility, set a fee for outgoing calls without the required delegation of the chief executive. The judgment concludes Serco therefore acted unlawfully.
Appellant claimed that the LAT erred in law by concluding that s 47 of the Legal Services Act 2011 (the Act) applies only to proceedings in the Waitangi Tribunal, as opposed to proceedings in other Courts that arise from, and directly relate to, proceedings before the Waitangi Tribunal. Appellant was unable to participate in proceedings in the general Courts, owing to Commissioner’s view that the judicial review proceedings relating to her representative claim and the subsequent appeals were not ‘in respect of proceedings before the Waitangi Tribunal’
Held: Appeal allowed. Both interpretations offered by the appellant and the Commissioner were reasonably open on the terms of s 47 of the Act, which could reasonably be interpreted in a narrow or broad fashion. Interpretation proposed by the appellant was wholly supported by the dual purposes of the legislation. Dual purposes of the legislation were to promote access to justice and to protect the interests of Māori bringing claims to the Waitangi Tribunal, particularly in relation to the power of the Waitangi Tribunal to make binding recommendations in respect of Crown forest land.
On the facts of the case found that the provision of information by the defendant to the Member of Parliament fell within the scope of privilege.
Defendant liable to plaintiff in defamation - awarded $120,000.00 lnterest and costs on 2B basis.
Held: Appeal dismissed on all grounds. The overarching and paramount consideration under the Act is the well-being and best interests of the child. The ss 5 and 13 principles then guide an holistic assessment, which the Judge undertook. The High Court emphasised that each case must be determined on its facts. The facts in this case were determinative of the outcome of the case.
- MR  NZHC 2934 (PDF, 189 KB)
Held: on an interim basis, the claim appeared not to lack merit. An interim order was necessary to preserve the applicant's position, and would not cause great inconvenience to the respondents. Application granted.
Starting point of 6 years' imprisonment, uplifted by 5% (approximately 3 ½ months) for previous convictions and 2.5% (approximately 2 months) for committing the offence while subject to a sentence of supervision, with a reduction of 20% for personal mitigating factors (upbringing, addiction, mental health and rehabilitative prospects), reducing the sentence to 5 years' 3 months' imprisonment. Further reduction of 9 months for time spent on EM bail, resulting in an end sentence of 4 years' and 6 months' imprisonment. Disqualified from driving for a period of two years following release from prison.
Re cultural issues, Panel acted in a manner "consistent with" principles of the Treaty and Treaty settlements, as required under s 6 FTCA, in all respects: Panel identified and engaged with concerns of TK and mana whenua hapū, satisfied conditions adequately mitigated concerns, no procedural errors.
Re environmental issues, no error: Panel considered environmental effects and entitled to rely on, assess and weigh evidence before it as it did.
The parties agreed to settle the claim and the Court made orders by consent, in the form of declarations that:
(1) the respondent’s exercise of the power under s 26(2) of the Parliamentary Service Act 2000 to issue the applicant a warning was unreasonable and irrational; and
(2) the warning from the respondent to the applicant was an unjustified limitation on the applicant’s right to freedom of movement under s 18 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act
- MR  NZHC 2644 (PDF, 5.1 MB)
Mr Joe Zheng found guilty (on charge 5) and Mr Ross found not guilty.
Application for mandatory injunction - requiring Westland to collect milk from three dairy farms owned by Canaan Farming Dairy Ltd with links to the Christian community known as Gloriavale.
Held: balance of convenience overwhelmingly favoured Canaan and the respondent was required to collect the milk supply from Canaan's dairy farms pending further order of the Court subject to the condition that Canaan not employ any minors or associate partners under the age of 18 on its farms pending determination of the substantive proceedings.
In 2018 Mr Fitzgerald-who suffers from a number of mental impairments-was found guilty of a relatively low-level indecent assault. Because he was on a third "strike", he was sentenced to the maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment.
In October 2021 the Supreme Court overturned that sentence. Contrary to the view taken in the courts below, the Court held that the three strikes legislation did not contemplate the imposition of a sentence that was grossly disproportionate and in breach of s 9 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (NZBORA). In doing so the Court noted that, in enacting the three strikes law, Parliament had expected that the risk of a grossly disproportionate, rights-breaching, sentence would be avoided by an administrative process involving the exercise of prosecutorial discretion.
Mr Fitzgerald was then resentenced to six months' imprisonment, which would have entitled him to release after three. But by the time of his resentencing, he had already spent some 1789 days (59 months) in prison. He therefore brought proceedings seeking damages for breach of his right not to be arbitrarily detained under s 22 of the NZBORA. Because, in an unrelated case, the Supreme Court has held that judicial acts (such as sentencing) cannot found a claim under the NZBORA, his challenge focused on the decision to lay the indecent assault charge by the Crown prosecutor.
The High Court held that the Crown prosecutor, when acting in that capacity, is a state "actor" for the purposes of s 3 of the NZBORA. As well, the exercise of prosecutorial discretion was governed by the Solicitor-General's Prosecution Guidelines, which have the force of law by dint of s 188 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011. The Prosecution Guidelines required a prosecutor to be satisfied not only that there was an evidential sufficiency for laying a particular charge but also that laying that charge was in the public interest. As Arnold J (writing for himself and O'Regan J) observed in the Supreme Court decision, the public interest limb of the inquiry included any relevant NZBORA considerations.
The High Court found that in light of all those matters, and Parliament's expectation when enacting the three strikes law, it followed that the Crown prosecutor was obliged to exercise their prosecutorial discretion in a way that avoided the risk of a defendant becoming subject to a disproportionately severe punishment on sentencing. The Crown prosecutor breached that obligation in Mr Fitzgerald's case. The judicial restraint that is usually exercised where prosecutorial discretion is in issue did not apply because the obligation to consider, and to act consistently with, Mr Fitzgerald's rights under s 9 was not a matter of discretion. The Court also held that at the point at which Mr Fitzgerald's sentence had, as a matter of fact, become grossly disproportionate (by reference to the offending itself and his personal circumstances) his detention also became arbitrary and in breach of s 22 of the NZBORA. Alternatively, the breach of s 9 could simply be measured by reference to that part of the punishment actually suffered by Mr Fitzgerald that was disproportionately severe. For reasons explained in the judgment the Court found that the relevant measure of the breach here was his detention between 5 March 2018 and 29 October 2021: a period of 1334 days or 44 months.
The Court accepted that the operation of the declaratory theory meant that the Supreme Court's decision in Fitzgerald merely revealed that sentencing judges had always had the power to decline to impose a sentence on a stage three offence that was grossly disproportionate, but rejected the Crown submission that this theory could operate retrospectively to absolve the Crown's liability for the prosecutor's breach here. While it was a Judge who imposed the sentence directly leading to Mr Fitzgerald's imprisonment, the Crown prosecutor had a discrete constitutional obligation to exercise their charging discretion in a way that would not expose defendants to the risk of a grossly disproportionate sentence in breach of the NZBORA. Throughout, it had been the prosecutor's intention that the apparently mandatory (and grossly disproportionate) sentence be imposed on Mr Fitzgerald. Moreover it was clear that Parliament's expectation was that prosecutorial discretion would operate as the primary means by which rights breaching sentences would be avoided.
Although Mr Fitzgerald was (eventually) released as a result of the criminal process, NZBORA damages were necessary to give him a fully effective remedy for the breaches here. Based on the relevant authorities, the factors set out in the Prisoners' Victims Claims Act (PVCA) and factors personal to Mr Fitzgerald, an award of $450,000 (plus interest) was appropriate. In the first instance, the amount awarded must be paid to the Secretary for Justice, under the PVCA.
HELD: the circumstances of the offending were not such that could displace the presumption of a sentence of life imprisonment. Discount of nine-month applied to the minimum period of imprisonment (MPI) starting point to reflect mitigating factors personal to the offender including remorse and contents raised in the s 27 report causative of offending. Final MPI of 10 years and nine months imposed. Concurrent sentence of one year imprisonment imposed for threatening to kill. Order for forfeiture and destruction of firearm; to lie in Court for a period of two months pending the exercise of any appeal rights.
Victim was punched then stomped on the head three times after he threatened to assault a female visitor and hen directed racial slurs at defendant.
Upper band 2 Taueki starting point eight and a half years' imprisonment. Nine month reduction reflect conduct of victim. Ten per cent uplift to reflect significant history of violent offending. Twenty per cent credit for guilty plea and 15 per cent for personal matters detailed in cultural and psychiatric reports. End sentence five years, 11 months. MPI of 50 per cent appropriate to denounce and deter.
Nation J was satisfied there was good reason for the rule.
The blanket protection against sexual activity between prisoners protected prisoner from harm, and helped with the therapeutic and rehabilitative aims of the programmes. He noted the way the programmes had been successful in reducing reoffending, and said those leading the programmes should be supported in the decisions they had made as to the benefits to be obtained from the rule and the need for it.
Result: A sentence of life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 13 years imposed.
Held that the lodge had a position to preserve as it would be required to cease operating for a period if relief was denied. Merits of the applicant's claim for judicial review were weak. Decision of the first respondent to impose conditions on the permission to drop 1080 did not appear to be procedurally unsound, nor unreasonable. Repercussions to students unable to attend the lodge were outweighed by the public interest factors supporting the 1080 drop going ahead as scheduled. Application dismissed.