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.

 

Case name
Case number
[2022] NZHC 2424
Date of Judgment
21 September 2022
Summary
Sentencing manslaughter.
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.
Case name
Case number
[2022] NZHC 2390
Date of Judgment
16 September 2022
Summary
Sentence of life imprisonment with a minimum period of imprisonment of 15 and a half years for murder in the context of a domestic relationship, together with other serious violent offending against the same victim and other victims. Starting point of 17 years for the minimum period of imprisonment reduced by one year for guilty pleas, and six months for social/cultural factors.
Case number
[2022] NZHC 2366
Date of Judgment
15 September 2022
Summary
High Court says rule prohibiting sexual activity between male prisoners at the special treatment units for child sex offenders is valid and not unlawfully discriminating against prisoners because of their sexual orientation.

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.
Case name
Case number
[2022] NZHC 2365
Date of Judgment
15 September 2022
Summary
Sentencing. The defendant pleaded guilty to murdering his 64-year-old landlady by bludgeoning her with a hockey stick.

Result: A sentence of life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 13 years imposed.
Case number
[2022] NZHC 2280
Date of Judgment
07 September 2022
Summary
Urgent application an interim order restraining the second respondent from conducting a 1080 drop in an area near the applicant lodge, on conditions that the lodge would have to cease operating for a period. 

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.
Case number
[2022] NZHC 2277
Date of Judgment
07 September 2022
Summary
High Court makes declaration that Mr Putua was arbitrarily detained (contrary to s 22 of NZBORA) for 33 days, and awards him $11,000 NZBORA damages.
Case name
Case number
[2022] NZHC 2251
Date of Judgment
05 September 2022
Summary
Sentencing: The defendant Ellery pleaded guilty to a charge of murder and Barry to a charge of manslaughter. Deceased a former partner of Ms Barry seeking to rekindle their relationship. Defendants sought out deceased believing he had thrown a brick through their bedroom window and smashed windows of Mr Ellery's van. Defendants made unannounced visit to deceased's address intending to confront deceased and engage in physical assault. Deceased threw an item at Mr Ellery and exited the house to confront him. Events that followed unclear, however, not disputed that Mr Ellery stabbed the deceased 13 times, inflicting fatal injuries. Agreed that Ms Barry was unaware Mr Ellery was armed and not involved with, nor a witness to, the fatal assault.

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.
Case number
[2022] NZHC 2211
Date of Judgment
01 September 2022
Summary
High Court held neighbours' communications in Environment Court mediation and subsequent settlement discussions were privileged.

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
Case name
Case number
[2022] NZHC 2209
Date of Judgment
31 August 2022
Summary
Defendant sentenced on one charge of manslaughter. Killing involved an assault where the defendant repeatedly stabbed the deceased with a ballpoint pen. 

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.
Case number
[2022] NZHC 2169
Date of Judgment
29 August 2022
Summary
Mr Te Aonui-Tawhai is sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, with a minimum period of imprisonment of 13 years
Case number
[2022] NZHC 2116
Date of Judgment
24 August 2022
Summary
Unsuccessful challenge to decisions to issue prospecting permits for gas. The Court held that climate change issues were not relevant considerations under the Crown Minerals Act, the purpose of which was specified to be to promote mining (s 1A). It accordingly dismissed the challenge based on relevant considerations and unreasonableness. It accepted  that climate change issues could become relevant given the obligation to act consistently with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. But the impacts of climate change on Māori, and the impacts of the measures to address climate change, were addressed by other processes, and it was not for this decision-maker to reassess them.
Case number
[2022] NZHC 2085
Date of Judgment
22 August 2022
Summary
Under the Rating Valuations Act 1998, the High Court holds that the capital value of a property, a proxy for fair market value, includes the value of the land as enhanced by a licence to grow SunGold kiwifruit, which in practice runs with the land. Accordingly , the rateable value of the property includes the value of the SunGold licence. The Gisborne District Council's appeal in this test case is upheld.
Case name
Case number
[2022] NZHC 2037
Date of Judgment
16 August 2022
Summary
Sentencing for murder. The defendant pursued the victim on a rural road at night, intending to confront him. He caused the victim's vehicle to crash down a steep bank, then shot the victim three times. The presumption of life imprisonment was not displaced. Section 104 applied as the victim was particularly vulnerable. But for s 104, an appropriate starting point was a 14 year MPI, with reference to R v Winders, R v Skinner, R v Hall and R v Garson. Mitigating factors were the defendant's age, previous good character until mental health issues brought on by trauma, remorse, and family circumstances making imprisonment unusually difficult. Because of these, a 17 year MPI would be manifestly unjust. Defendant sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum period of 14 years, and a concurrent six months for unlawfully possessing a firearm.
Case number
[2022] NZHC 2026
Date of Judgment
16 August 2022
Summary
Applicants challenged gathering limits and requirements for COVID-19 vaccine certificates (CVCs) under the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Protection Framework) Order 2021 (Order) made under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, on the grounds those measures breached their right to manifest religion under s 15 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

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.
Case name
Case number
[2022] NZHC 1899
Date of Judgment
03 August 2022
Summary
Sentencing on guilty plea to motor manslaughter. An unimpaired driver and no external explanation for the crash. 

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.
Case number
[2022] NZHC 1880
Date of Judgment
02 August 2022
Summary
Judicial review of statutory tikanga­ based adjudication process to allocate CNI forests land amongst eight iwi on basis of mana whenua.
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.
Case name
Case number
[2022] NZHC 1854
Date of Judgment
29 July 2022
Summary
Appeal from District Court where the appellant was found to have breached the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015. The appellant and respondent were engaged in a social media feud. The District Court found that the appellant's conduct breached the Act and ordered that the appellant cease posting about the respondent and her businesses.
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.
Case number
[2022] NZHC 1708
Date of Judgment
25 July 2022
Summary
Kim Dotcom challenged Deputy Solicitor-General's 2017 and 2022 decisions to send cloned and original seized devices to United States. Argued no jurisdiction to deal with "mixed content" devices, breach of s 21 New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, failure to have regard to relevant factors and facts.

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.
Case name
Case number
[2022] NZHC 1781
Date of Judgment
22 July 2022
Summary
Originating application by a barrister for a take-down order relating to a fraudulent website impersonating him. Attempts to have the website taken-down through various non-judicial means proved unsuccessful.

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.
Case number
[2022] NZHC 1777
Date of Judgment
22 July 2022
Summary
The High Court has held it will only be insofar as the proposed regional statement is giving effect to those parts of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management directly relating to the maintenance or improvement of the quality or quantity of freshwater, or as are otherwise directly related to maintaining or improving the quality or quantity of freshwater that the proposed regional statement will be subject to the freshwater planning process with more limited rights of appeal to the Environment Court.
Case name
Case number
[2022] NZHC 1755
Date of Judgment
22 July 2022
Summary
Judge-alone trial of obtaining by deception charges, in relation to 'donations' solicited for the New Zealand First political party's benefit. If "party donations" under s 207 of the Electoral Act 1993, the defendants would dishonestly have retained them against the Act's requirement they be transmitted to the party secretary.
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.
Case number
[2022] NZHC 1709
Date of Judgment
20 July 2022
Summary
Mr Gardner-Hopkins was found guilty of six charges of professional misconduct by the NZ Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal (Tribunal). The Tribunal censured Mr Gardner-Hopkins and suspended him for two years from 7 February 2022. The National Standards Committee appealed the penalty decision. It argued Mr Gardner-Hopkins should have been struck off or at the least suspended for the maximum period of three years. 

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
Case name
Case number
[2022] NZHC 1627
Date of Judgment
12 July 2022
Summary
High Court considers appropriate sentence for possession of objectionable publications under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 on an appeal by Graham Snell.

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.
Case number
[2022] NZHC 1582
Date of Judgment
05 July 2022
Summary
Application for leave to bring a second appeal against conviction. Applicant fined $170 and issued 35 demerit points for infringing the speed limit through a stretch of road works on State Highway 1 in Dome Valley. Argument that the sign displaying the temporary speed limit was erroneously left out at a time that the site was unattended.

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.
Case name
Case number
[2022] NZHC 1555
Date of Judgment
30 June 2022
Summary
Michaela Barriball pleaded guilty to one charge of murder, one charge of injuring with intent to injure and two charges of ill-treatment of a child. Her offending caused the death of Malachi Rain Subecz, a five year old boy. Sharron Patricia Mereama Barriball pleaded guilty to attempting to prevent the course of justice. She is Michaela's sister. Her offending also related to events surrounding Malachi's death. Malachi's mother was imprisoned in June 2021 and at her request Malachi was placed in Michaela's care. While in her care, Michaela physically abused Malachi on a daily basis, sometimes severely. Michaela failed to feed Malachi properly. She did not take him to school. She sent numerous text messages to her partner deriding Malachi and at one point threatening that she would kill him. Michaela came close to drowning Malachi in the bath on one occasion by intentionally holding his head under the water. Malachi was also found with burns on his body, some of which were consistent with objects being pressed against his skin. On 1 November 2021, Michaela inflicted multiple blunt force injuries to Malachi's head. He fell unconscious and began suffering seizures. He later died of these injuries. Sharron's charge of attempting to prevent the course of justice related to three text messages she sent instructing her teenage daughter to remove items of Malachi's clothing from the address where the fatal assault took place, before Police arrived. Held: in relation to Michaela, s 104(1)(g) of the Sentencing Act 2002 was engaged because of Malachi's inherent vulnerability as a child. Aggravating features of the offending included the loss of Malachi's life, the particular cruelty involved in the offending, the gross breach of trust, Malachi's vulnerability as a child and the additional aggravating features in s 9A of the Sentencing Act. There were no mitigating features. A starting point for the minimum period of imprisonment (MPI) of 18 years and six months was adopted. Discounts of 18 months for early guilty pleas and five per cent for personal circumstances produced a notional MPI of 16 years and one month's imprisonment. The Court determined that it would not be manifestly unjust to impose a 17 year MPI under s 104. In relation to Sharron, a starting point of 17 months' imprisonment was adopted for attempting to prevent the course of justice. Discounts of 25 per cent for early guilty pleas and five per cent for personal circumstances. The Crown did not oppose home detention and the Court considered home detention appropriate. Michaela sentenced to life imprisonment with an MPI of 17 years for Malachi's murder and concurrent sentences of imprisonment of two years for injuring with intent to injure, and two years and three years for the respective charges of ill-treatment of a child. Sharron sentenced to six months' home detention for attempting to prevent the course of justice.
Case number
[2022] NZHC 1536
Date of Judgment
30 June 2022
Summary
Defendant sentenced to six years 11 months' imprisonment on charge of attempted murder.
Case number
[2022] NZHC 1532
Date of Judgment
30 June 2022
Summary
Karma Cripps and Mihi Bassett brought judicial review proceedings in which they alleged that regulations made in 2009, 2012 and 2017 purporting to authorise the use of pepper spray in prisons were unlawful on three general grounds. The focus was particularly on the use of Cell Buster - a device that pumps pepper spray into a closed cell and is used in "control and restraint" incidents for the purposes of "cell extraction", which means removing a prisoner from his or her cell.

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.
Case name
Case number
[2022] NZHC 1517
Date of Judgment
29 June 2022
Summary
Criminal law - sentencing - defendant pleads guilty to five charges of dangerous driving causing death - maximum penalty 10 years' imprisonment (increased from 5 years in 2011).

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.