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.
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.
HELD: Mr Ellery sentenced to life imprisonment. Section 104(1) not engaged. Aggravating factors: serious violence, use of knife, premeditation and offending on deceased's property. Six months uplift for prior convictions for offending using a knife. Starting MPI 13 years' imprisonment. Twelve months' reduction to reflect guilty plea. Further 12 months' reduction to reflect personal factors outlined in a detailed psychologist's report confirming traumatic upbringing and mental health disorder. MPI of 11 years imposed. Starting point for Ms Barry four years, three months' imprisonment with full credit for guilty plea. Further 15 per cent for personal matters detailed in a cultural report. Credit of six months allowed to reflect 16 months spent on restrictive EM bail. End sentence of twenty four months' imprisonment commuted to seven months' home detention reflecting six months custodial remand and positive prospects for rehabilitation.
Neighbours entitled to strikeout of developer's claim in High Court civil proceedings because no evidential basis on which developer's claims against neighbours could succeed.
Developer's claims in High Court were also an abuse of process for the ulterior purpose of pressuring the neighbours into withdrawing their opposition to the developer's RMA appeals
Held that the aggravating factors of the offending were the extreme violence involved, targeted attacks to the head, serious injuries causing death, use of a weapon, victim vulnerability, the element of home invasion and breach of trust, and the gang context. Band three of R v Taueki. Cross-check with manslaughter cases including R v Tai and Blackler v R resulted in a starting point of 10 years' imprisonment .
Discounts of 25 per cent for guilty plea and 10 percent for personal background circumstances, remorse and willingness to participate in restorative justice.
End sentence of six years and six months' imprisonment . MPI of 50 percent necessary for accountability, denunciation and deterrence.
Held, while the measures in the Order did limit the applicants' rights under s 15, they were a justified limit under s 5 of the Bill of Rights Act, both on introduction, and after the Omicron variant was circulating in the community. Nor was there an error of law by the Minister. Claims of both applicant groups dismissed.
Result: Starting point of seven years six months' imprisonment reduced to five years. Disqualification from holding or obtaining a driver's licence for a period of seven years post release from prison.
Held, process whereby 2 panel members issued decision with a subsequent decision by 3rd panel member constituted a valid majority decision-making process. Decisions of Panel found to be outside statutory powers and/or failed to allocate the land on the basis of mana whenua interests. Two of the Panel members had died in intervening period so decision could not be remitted back to the Panel. Court directed parties to explore options for resolution which uphold the integrity of the underlying Treaty settlement, before it makes directions.
HELD: The District Court judge erred by focusing on whether the appellant's online content was morally or socially justified. The appellant's conduct did, however, breach the Act. Orders under the Act were warranted, but those made in the District Court were too broad. Orders narrowed (to exclude the respondent's companies) and time-bound.
The High Court declined the application. Deputy Solicitor-General has jurisdiction; s 21 NZBORA not breached; relevant factors under s 27 of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1992, other material facts considered.
Application by Attorney-General to release NZ Police from password confidentiality undertakings.
Application granted. Undertakings now redundant following quashed orders.
Held that the Court has inherent power to make take-down orders in these circumstances to maintain public confidence in the profession and facilitate the administration of justice. That power was exercised in this case as the website was plainly false and made for the purpose of fraud, no party opposed, no other efforts to remove the website succeeded and there was no public interest in maintaining it. Application granted.
HELD: the prosecution had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the funds were "party donations" as defined. "Party donations" as defined were not merely funds given with the intention of benefiting the party but had to be received by the party, or those involved in the administration of the affairs of the party, to engage the obligation to transmit them to the party secretary. Although the 'donations' were paid into bank accounts associated with the defendants to benefit the party, they had not been given to anyone involved with the administration of the party. Alternatively, if the funds were "party donations" the prosecution had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt the defendants lacked claim of right.
Mr Gardener-Hopkins cross-appealed. He argued for a shorter period of suspension.
Held. Mr Gardner-Hopkins' conduct was serious, exploitative, sexual misconduct. It was not the conduct of a fit and proper person. However, given the steps Mr Gardner-Hopkins had taken and continued to take in the six years since the incidents to address the underlying issues the risk of any repeat of such behaviour was substantially diminished. Suspension rather than strike-off was appropriate. Nevertheless the Court accepted the Tribunal fell into error in accepting mitigating factors of financial and professional consequences to the defendant and in considering the case was less serious than the cases of Daniels and Horsley. For that reason and to maintain public confidence in the profession and the standards it held practitioners to, it was necessary to impose the maximum period of suspension.
Result: Appeal allowed in part. Suspension for two years quashed and replaced with a suspension for the maximum period of three years in addition to censure and costs.
Cross appeal dismissed
Defendant imported and possessed 306 objectionable publications involving the sexual abuse of children. He appealed a sentence of two years and five months' imprisonment. Extensive discussion of the case law in this area and legislative history. Four year starting point upheld. Discount for rehabilitation increased by five percent. Sentence reduced to two years and two months' imprisonment.
Held that the applicant's argument raised a matter of general importance insofar as it concerned the interpretation of the Land Transport Rule: Setting of Speed Limits 2017. The applicant was self-represented until counsel appeared in the High Court, and Justices of the Peace and District Court did not address this interpretative issue as a question of law. A miscarriage of justice could occur if the argument was not properly ventilated in the High Court. Leave to appeal granted.
The first ground of challenge was that the regulations only authorised the pepper spray substance, not the mechanism by which the spray is deployed. The Judge found that although the regulations were framed in an "unhelpful and confusing manner", the ambiguity was not sufficiently uncertain to render the regulations void.
The second was that, in approving the regulations the Ministers had insufficient information to be satisfied (as they were required by the Corrections Act to be) that the use of pepper spray (and Cell Buster in particular) was consistent with the humane treatment of prisoners. The Judge found that, on the basis of the evidence before the Court, Ministers did not know that the use of Cell Buster was being proposed and nor were they aware of a number of matters that went to its humane use. Although they were entitled to expect that the statutory parameters governing the use of force would be complied with there were other important matters going to humane use that they should have been aware of and that should have been the subject of specific conditions on use in the regulations themselves. These included the need for prior inquiries as to any relevant mental or physical health conditions, a prohibition on use in poorly ventilated areas, the need for the prisoner to be warned (and given an opportunity to comply) before any deployment, prompt decontamination procedures, and a prohibition on the use of certain restraints afterwards. While these matters might have been included in Corrections' guidelines it was not clear that the Ministers knew that and, in any event, those guidelines are not legally enforceable and could presumably be changed at any time. In the absence of conditions of this kind being in the regulations themselves, the question of their compliance with the New Zealand Bull of Rights Act (NZBORA) was also unlawfully left at large.
The Judge rejected the third ground, which contended that the use of Cell Buster in prisons could never be consistent with ss 9 and 23(5) of the NZBORA. The case showed that rights' compliance was necessarily fact specific, and it was not difficult to conceive of examples where using pepper spray would be more humane than using other means of force (including the use of other non-lethal weapons, such as batons) that had long since been approved for use in prisons.
The Judge made declarations that:
a) prior to approving the regulations in 2009, 2012 and 2017, Ministers could not have been reasonably satisfied that the use of Cell Buster in prisons would be consistent with the humane treatment of prisoners (as required by s 85(3) of the Corrections Act);
b) to the extent the regulations purported to authorise the use of Cell Buster in prisons, they did not lawfully do so; and
c) the use of Cell Buster in prisons pursuant to those regulations was therefore unlawful.
Shortly after the hearing of the plaintiffs' application for review, the 2017 regulations were repealed and new regulations relating to pepper spray came into force. Although a draft of those new regulations was before the Court, they were not the subject of the plaintiffs' claim and were not addressed at the hearing. The unlawfulness finding does not, accordingly extend to the new regulations. The Judge observed, however, that it seemed likely that aspects of her findings in relation to the second ground of review would be relevant to those regulations and invited the Crown to consider those matters further.
HELD: sentenced to two years six months' imprisonment - disqualified from driving for five years - credit allowed in sentence for guilty pleas, youth and cognitive deficits, remorse and good character.