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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 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.

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.

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 Maniototo 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.

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.

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.