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.

R v Tarrant, CRI-2019-009-2468

The High Court has published:

  • general information about the sentencing process in New Zealand,
  • procedural information about the sentencing hearing which ran from 24-27 August 2020,
  • information for media,
  • minutes of the sentencing judge in this matter, Mander J,
  • and more.

 

Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2553
Date of Judgment
29 September 2020
Summary
Murder sentencing. Defendant took his two year-old daughter to a river. In the water, he let her go, causing her to drown and die.

Held: Sentence of life imprisonment with 14-year MPI imposed. Section 104(g) clearly met given the victim's vulnerability, being only two years old and in a position of care and trust of the defendant. However, a 17- year MPI would be manifestly unjust. The defendant's mental illness, and the particular effect it had on  the thinking  and decision-making that led to the victim's death, reduced his culpability. A two-year reduction from the MPI was given in recognition of this. A further one­ year reduction was given in respect of his genuine remorse.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2528
Date of Judgment
25 September 2020
Summary
Leave to appeal is granted and interim suppression orders were continued until 5pm Tuesday 29 September 2020 unless extended by the Court of Appeal.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2502
Date of Judgment
24 September 2020
Summary
The Director of the Serious Fraud Office intends to issue a public statement about criminal charges it has filed following its investigation into the New Zealand First Foundation.  The two defendants are not Ministers, sitting MPs, candidates  at the election or members of their staff. The NZ First Party applies for orders prohibiting the Director from issuing the statement until after a government has been formed following the General Election. I accept there is a risk of confusion and a negative impact on NZ First's electoral prospects from the statement. But I decline the application because the public interest in transparency outweighs the inconvenience to NZ First.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2487
Date of Judgment
23 September 2020
Summary
Mr Ransfield pleaded guilty to murdering Maui Houkamau. A sentence of life imprisonment with at least a minimum period of 10 years was not manifestly unjust. The Court adopted a 16-year minimum period of imprisonment starting point with reference to comparable authority. The Court then applied a two-year discount to account for personal mitigating factors and a guilty plea. The Court did not consider s 104 to be engaged. In the result, the Court sentenced Mr Ransfield to life imprisonment with a minimum period of imprisonment of 14 years
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2382
Date of Judgment
14 September 2020
Summary
The defendant is charged with murder and attempted murder and was found unfit to stand trial due to cognitive and intellectual difficulties. The judgment concerns the second step in the process outlined under the Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act 2003, namely the determination of the defendant's involvement in the acts that form the basis of the charges. The key issues were whether self-defence should be taken into account in determining involvement and, if so, whether self-defence was established. 

The charges arise out of an altercation on a residential street. Following an earlier incident, the deceased, the complainant, and four other men went to the defendant's family home late at night looking for a fight. The defendant's brother was being beaten on the ground by at least three if not more men, when the defendant came out waving a knife resulting in the stabbing of the deceased and the complainant. 

The Court finds that self-defence is to be considered in determining involvement partly because it is the only opportunity the defendant will have to run that defence. On the facts of this case, the Court finds that the defendant was acting to defend his brother and himself at the time of the stabbings. Accordingly, self-defence is established and the defendant is found not to be "involved". The charges are dismissed.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2381
Date of Judgment
14 September 2020
Summary
Summary of findings in determination in involvement hearing delivered orally. (See R v Tongia (2020] NZHC 2382).
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2314
Date of Judgment
07 September 2020
Summary
Sentence of nine years and four months' imprisonment imposed on one charge of (motor) manslaughter (and other periods on lesser charges, to be served concurrently). Defendant fleeing from police, greatly affected by methamphetamine, did not see pedestrian (although plainly visible) before striking and killing him, and speeding off. Disqualification from driving for three years from discharge from prison.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2289
Date of Judgment
03 September 2020
Summary
Sentence of three years six months' imprisonment imposed for one charge of manslaughter and five charges of dangerous driving causing injury.  Defendant's six month old son killed, and a four year old girl made a tetraplegic.  Also disqualification from driving for four years and six months.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2192
Date of Judgment
27 August 2020
Summary
Offender pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one of committing a terrorist act after shooting worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch. Court held that no minimum period of imprisonment would be sufficient to satisfy the purpose of sentencing. Offender sentenced to life imprisonment without parole under s 103 (2A) Sentencing Act 2002.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2135
Date of Judgment
21 August 2020
Summary
Sentencing of three co-defendants convicted of murder. Section 104 engaged as murder was committed in the course of a robbery.

Debra Tihema sentenced to life imprisonment with MPI of 17 years.
Ms Tihema's role was central to the offending, including introducing the weapon.

Cyle Jetson sentenced to life imprisonment with a MPI of 11 years' imprisonment and six months' imprisonment on the charge of burglary, to be served concurrently. Mitigating factors include youth and rehabilitative prospects, traumatic family background, and substance abuse.

Mylesha Tihema sentenced to life imprisonment with a MPI of 10 years' imprisonment. Mitigating factors include youth, FASO, alcohol and drug abuse.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2090
Date of Judgment
20 August 2020
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2090
Date of Judgment
19 August 2020
Summary
High Court declares the requirement that New Zealanders stay at home for the 9 day period between 26 March and 3 April was justified, but unlawful. All other challenges to legality of early COVID-19 response fail.
Media Release
Media Release (PDF, 257 KB)
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2084
Date of Judgment
18 August 2020
Summary
SENTENCING: Sentencing of Mr Te Maru, having been found guilty by a jury of the murder of his brother. HELD: Mr Te Maru did not have actual intent to kill and instead had reckless intent. The case involves real tragedy; however, on a principled approach, life imprisonment would not be manifestly unjust.  Neither the circumstances of the offending nor of the offender warrant a departure from the presumption of life imprisonment. There is no need for a minimum period of imprisonment (MPI) of more than 10 years - Mr Te Maru's culpability is at the lower end of the scale, he is genuinely remorseful and his prospects of rehabilitation are very good.  He does not pose ongoing real risk to the public. Life imprisonment with a 10-year MPI imposed.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2106
Date of Judgment
14 August 2020
Summary
Sentencing on a charge of murder and offending related to the murder: unlawful taking of a vehicle, theft (representative) and unlawful use of a document (representative). Held that life without parole is manifestly unjust, noting the defendant's age and prospects of rehabilitation. Circumstances did not reach s 104(1)(e) to justify imposing a 17-year minimum period of imprisonment  (MPI).  The aggravating factors were the nature of the murder and post­ murder conduct, previous serious offending, and impact on the victims. The guilty plea (coupled with remorse) prospects of rehabilitation and 27 cultural and personal background factors taken into account. Defendant is sentenced to life imprisonment with an MPI of 15 years for murder; 12 months' imprisonment for the unlawful taking of the victim's vehicle and three years' imprisonment for the two representative charges, all to be served concurrently
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2036
Date of Judgment
12 August 2020
Summary
The Commissioner of Police (Commissioner) seeks civil forfeiture orders against Mr Snowden under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (CPRA) . Asset forfeiture orders are sought in respect of three items of property - a property in Karaka, an Aprilia motorcycle and $2,725 cash seized in April 2013. The Commissioner claims the property was wholly or in part acquired or derived from significant criminal activity (the possession and sale of drugs, and benefit fraud). Alternatively, a profit forfeiture order is sought on the basis Mr Snowden has unlawfully benefited from significant criminal activity. A limitation defence under the Limitation Act 1950 was raised in relation to assets forfeiture. HELD: The action for an assets forfeiture order based on tainting due to alleged benefit fraud in 2002 to 2006 is time barred, in accordance with the Limitation Act 1950. The action for an assets forfeiture order based on tainting due to the alleged drug offending is not time barred. The three items of property are tainted. The initial acquisition of the Karaka property was not tainted (it was not acquired as a result of significant criminal activity) but mortgage repayments were funded by significant criminal activity; the property is therefore tainted. The $2,725 cash likely derived from Mr Snowden's drug offending; it is tainted. So too is theAprilia; its forfeiture was not opposed.  Given the disparity between Mr Snowden's identifiable rental income and his access to large sums of cash, it is also likely he has unlawfully benefited from significant criminal activity in a substantial way. In accordance with s 53 of the CPRA, the value of that benefit is presumed to the value stated in the Commissioner's application ($754,533). That presumption has not been rebutted. As the Karaka property was not initially acquired as result of significant criminal activity, the capital gains and rental income benefit identified by the Commissioner was partly rebutted. But the Court of Appeal decision in Commissioner of Police v Cheah requires the respondent to prove a different value to rebut the presumption. Mr Snowden has not done so. Mr Snowden has interests in   or effective control over all three items of property. The Aprilia and the $2,725 cash are subject to assets forfeiture. In relation to the Karaka property there is relief from assets forfeiture. A profit forfeiture order is made; the maximum recoverable amount is $743,308 (the value of the benefit with the Aprilia and $2,725 cash deducted). The property to be disposed of the purpose of the profit forfeiture order is the Karaka property.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 2032
Date of Judgment
12 August 2020
Summary
Sequitur sue Satori and Mr Griffiths (MG) - alleged misleading conduct under the FTA and FMCA re a JV in Fiji. Satori and MG seek to strikeout the claims because of extraterritoriality; claim Fiji is forum conveniens (fc); and that MG was not served out of NZ. HELD: MG was served through his solicitor. The FTA or FMCA claims against MG are struck out. They couldn't succeed as his alleged misleading conduct occurred in Fiji and there was no prospect of finding that he carried on business in NZ. The FTA and FMCA claims are not struck out against Satori. It may have been carrying on business in NZ and supplying goods out of NZ
Case number
[2020] NZHC 1999
Date of Judgment
10 August 2020
Summary
Successful appeal by Greenpeace New Zealand against Charities Board decision declining charitable status. Environmental protection is a charitable purpose and Greenpeace NZ's advocacy advances the public benefit by gathering necessary support. Greenpeace undertakes activities to advance education. The historic purposes of peace and nuclear disarmament are ancillary. Greenpeace does not have a disqualifying illegal purpose. Greenpeace NZ was entitled to be registered as a charity. A judicial review application was also brought, alleging apparent bias. It was finely balanced, so recusal would have been more proper. The appeal outcome meant no order was necessary.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 1983
Date of Judgment
07 August 2020
Summary
Ms Ruddelle is sentenced to 11 and a half months' home detention for the manslaughter of her partner while defending her son, after hree and a half years of suffering intimate partner violence.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 1896
Date of Judgment
31 July 2020
Summary
Judgment: Appeal against short prison sentence for breach of protection order.!Whether offender's need to engage in rehabilitative programme justified a sentence of intensive supervision as the least restrictive sentence?Whether that sentence could be imposed when no safe address available for offender?
Case number
[2020] NZHC 1893
Date of Judgment
31 July 2020
Summary
Sentencing of two defendants on manslaughter and aggravated robbery charges. The two defendants had broken into the victim's home in order to obtain money and methamphetamine. They intentionally assaulted the victim and left him "hog tied" on a bed with a pair of shorts likely tied over his nose and mouth. He died of asphyxiation. Due to the lack of witnesses the Court could not be sure which defendant had taken which steps. HELD: The Court applied the approach in Moses v R [2020] NZCA 296. The starting point for the manslaughter charges was set at 12 years' imprisonment for both defendants.  There was no uplift for the aggravated robbery convictions. Mr Fatu received a 12 per cent discount for personal circumstances including admissions of significant parts of the Crown case (ten years, six months). Mr Ekeroma received a discount of 16 per cent for personal circumstances including admissions of significant parts of the Crown case and pleading guilty at a relatively early stage, as well as nearly a year spent on EM bail with only two minor breaches (ten years). An MPI was imposed for both defendants of 40 per cent of their final sentence (four years and three months; four years).
Case number
[2020] NZHC 1882
Date of Judgment
31 July 2020
Summary
The plaintiffs' claims concern Ngati Te Ata ancestral land known as "Maioro". Maioro was acquired by the Crown by way of purchase, confiscation and public works takings. The land is now subject to an ironsands mining licence to New Zealand Steel Ltd. The ironsands supply the Glenbrook Steel Mill.
Ngati Te Ata's Treaty claims regarding Maioro were the subject of recommendations by the Waitangi Tribunal in 1985. Despite nearly 30 years of negotiation, the Crown and Ngati Te Ata are yet to reach a settlement. The plaintiffs commenced these proceedings in 2013. Key to the plaintiffs' claims are allegations that (1) the sale of Maioro to the Crown in 1864 is voidable for duress, undue influence and/or was an unconscionable bargain; (2) the confiscation was unlawful; (3) the Crown's acquisition of Maioro was in breach of a fiduciary duty owed by the Crown to Ngati Te Ata; (4) the public works takings were unlawful; and (5) the Treaty settlement negotiations gave rise to binding obligations on the Crown which it has failed to implement. The Crown (and NZ Steel) deny the claims, and raise affirmative defences of standing, limitation, laches and acquiescence.
HELD: The plaintiffs' claims are dismissed. The sale and/or the confiscation extinguished native customary title in Maioro. The public works takings were lawful exercises of the relevant statutory powers at the time. The Treaty settlement negotiations do not give rise to lthe binding obligations suggested. Ngati Te Ata has valid Treaty claims, but those claims are properly resolved through the Treaty settlement process.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 1848
Date of Judgment
28 July 2020
Summary
Application for: declaration that Corrections is under an implied public law duty (under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990) to provide rehabilitative treatment to prisoners serving indeterminate sentences; declarations that Corrections has breached that duty; and associated remedies (including compensation). Application dismissed, as: declined to declare existence of implied public law duty; and Corrections had reasonably discharged its relevant obligations under the Corrections Act 2004 to provide access to rehabilitative treatment.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 1839
Date of Judgment
28 July 2020
Summary
Accessory after the fact to murder sentencing, with three-year starting point, reduced to fourteen months' imprisonment for co-operation with police in disclosing the murder and burial site (including all other discounts, including for early guilty plea). No adjustment required for totality with present four-year unrelated drugs sentence.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 1829
Date of Judgment
27 July 2020
Summary
Sentencing for Mr Matamata on convictions of human trafficking and slavery. The Court found there were several aggravating factors present; the extent of harm, abuse of trust, victims’ age and vulnerability, premeditation, number of convictions and victims, nature of the exploitation, degree of control, degrading treatment, financial benefit, duration, nature and degree of the deception and mechanism of entering New Zealand. There were no mitigating factors. The Court adopted a starting point of 12.5 years’ imprisonment and gave a six-month uplift for previous convictions and a two-year reduction for an instrument forfeiture order. The Court declined to impose a MPI.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 1796
Date of Judgment
23 July 2020
Summary
It being a third strike offence, Mr Allen was sentenced under the Sentencing Act to the maximum period of 7 yrs imprisonment on a charge of wounding with reckless disregard . But his was a clear and convincing case for departure from the three strike regime and no order for parole was made. The key consideration was rehabilitation and reunification with direct whanau from whom he was taken at aged four when he was placed into state care from which time his life was characterised by abuse, violence, dislocation, complex deprivations and alcohol and drug addiction. Rehabilitative potential was real and the possibility of being granted parole would encourage and incentivise him to do that.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 1669
Date of Judgment
10 July 2020
Summary
Partially successful application for judicial review of decision to approve the 2020-2021 tahr operational plan providing for DoC culling of tahr. Review brought on three grounds: decision was ultra vires the Wild Animal Control Act 1977, a breach of the applicant's legitimate expectation of consultation, and based on insufficient information.  First and third grounds failed.  Second ground made out: the  applicant had a legitimate expectation of meaningful consultation and there was partial inadequacy by the respondent in meeting that expectation. Decision not quashed, but referred back to DoC for reconsideration and further consultation. Limits imposed on 2020-2021 plan until further consultation occurs.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 1662
Date of Judgment
10 July 2020
Summary
Preventive detention imposed for sexual offending. Much, but not all, of the offending is historical.Preventive detention was imposed on the defendant in 1997, but quashed by the Court of Appeal the same year. Unlikely that Court would have quashed the sentence had it known the true scale of the defendant's offending. And, defendant had committed sexual offending since then despite a final warning by the Court of Appeal.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 1659
Date of Judgment
10 July 2020
Summary
The judgment creditors, Mainzeal Property & Construct ion Ltd (in liq), applied for Mr Richard Yan, the judgment debtor, to be adjudicated bankrupt. The bankruptcy application was based on the judgment of Cooke J in Mainzeal Property & Const ruction Ltd (in liq) v Yan [2019] NZHC 255 , where his Honour had found that Mr Yan had breached his duties under s 135 of the Companies Act 1993 and was ordered to contribute $36m in total to Mainzeal's assets to be distributed to creditors. The critical issue before the Court was whether it should order a halt of the bankruptcy proceedings under s 42 of the Insolvency Act 2006 pending a determination of an appeal to the Court of Appeal from the judgment of Cooke J. There was a second and important issue as to whether, if a halt should be granted, the Court should order additional security to be paid by Mr Yan beyond what he had already offered the judgment creditors. Held: The adjudication proceedings should be halted pursuant to s 42 and no order for security should be made, despite reservations the Court had whether Mr Yan really did have no ability to provide security beyond what he had offered. Further held: There was jurisdiction to order security in an appropriate case but given the imminent Court of Appeal hearing and that that Court was seized of the underlying substantive proceedings (including all procedural issues) it would be wrong at this late stage to impose as a condition of an order halting the proceedings, to require Mr Yan to pay additional security. Proceedings adjourned for six months for review.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 1654
Date of Judgment
10 July 2020
Summary
Sentencing for Wong, on charges relating to significant commercial methamphetamine offending, where it was imported dissolved in gypsum umbrella stands. His co-offenders have been sentenced, but he disputed the facts of his role.Sentenced on the basis he had a lead role, resulting in a starting point of 31 years. Discounts given for old age and hardship caused by having no support in NZ. No discount for previous good character, and only 10 per cent for late guilty plea. End sentence 25 and a half years. MPI of eight and a half years set, due to the age he will be when that term ends.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 1625
Date of Judgment
08 July 2020
Summary
Water permits for the take and use of water for a wool scour and freezing works had been transferred to water bottling companies.
Under the RMA, could the companies and the Regional Council process applications for a consent to a change of use of the water without also having to process the applications as for a new take of water?
Under the RMA, can an application be made for consent to a take of water or for the use of water, or must an application be made for a consent to the take and use of water?
Once the change of use had been approved, was it unlawful for the Council to issue a new amalgamated consent recording the approved changed use, and the extraction previously permitted with the earlier take and use consent?
Was the Council correct in treating the extraction authorised by the previous consents as part of the environment against which the effects of the proposed change of use had to be assessed?
Had the Council considered all matters as required in deciding whether neither public nor limited notification of the applications was required?
Media Release
Media Release (PDF, 201 KB)
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 1573
Date of Judgment
06 July 2020
Summary
Sentence of life imprisonment imposed with a minimum period of imprisonment of 14 years for murder.
Case name
Case number
[2020] NZHC 1567
Date of Judgment
06 July 2020
Summary
Sentence of imprisonment of four years eight months' following convictions for manslaughter and driving with excess breath alcohol (which given the three strike regime will be served without parole). Three years' disqualification from driving following release from prison also imposed.
Case number
[2020] NZHC 0
Date of Judgment
02 July 2020