On 1 July 2013 , the procedural provisions affecting criminal trials changed with the commencement of the bulk of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 (CPA) provisions. At the end of the 2014 calendar year, 7% of active trials were commenced under the Summary Proceedings Act 1957 (SPA) and 93% under the CPA.
Under the CPA, cases that are High Court only offences have their first appearance in the District Court and are then managed in the High Court from second appearance onwards. Criminal trials to be tried in the High Court under the Court of Trial protocol are received in the High Court post the case review hearing in the District Court.
As there are two procedural regimes in place, some decisions needed to be made about how to describe the caseload of criminal trials. For counting purposes, to enable valid volume comparisons across years, new criminal trial cases ready for trial comprise cases committed for trial under the SPA and cases ready for trial (post case review hearing) under the CPA.
Over the 2014 calendar year, the number of new criminal trials decreased 17% to 179, down from 215 in 2013. When compared to four years ago, new criminal trials have decreased by 25%. The sharp decrease over the last calendar year may in part be attributable to a drop in High Court only offences and the under-identification of cases eligible for a protocol decision in the first year of the CPA.
There were 134 active criminal trials as at 31 December 2014, this is a 13% reduction compared to the same time the previous year when there were 154.
The number of cases disposed decreased by 6% to 208 in the 2014 year (down from 222 in 2013).
There has been a 10% increase in the number of trials held, from 104 in the 2013 year, to 114 in 2014.
The median waiting time to trial from committal or post case review (as at 31 December 2014) was 332 days, a decrease of 24 days from the same time in December 2013. (356 median days in December 2013).
As at 31 December 2014, there were 32 cases with High Court only offences managed under the CPA that were disposed of in the High Court before they were deemed ready for trial. In the 2014 calendar year, there were 32 cases that had guilt established (by plea or verdict from a judge or jury) in the District Court and were transferred to the High Court for sentencing.
New criminal appeals have increased by 10% over the 2014 calendar year. There were 1,139 new criminal appeals filed in the past 12 months, up from 1,032 in 2013. Over the same period there were 1,178 disposals, a 12% increase from the 1,045 in 2013. As at 31 December 2014 there were 194 active appeals, a 13% decrease from 31 December 2013, when there were 223 active appeals.
Civil cases in this context include: general proceedings, judicial reviews, and originating applications.
Insolvency cases are bankruptcy cases (where an adjudication order has been filed) and company liquidations.
Civil appeals are matters in the civil jurisdiction appealed to the High Court from either the District Court (including the Family Court) or a tribunal.
The way the workload of the civil jurisdiction of the High Court is reported changed after the publication of the June 2012 annual statistics. The data source used has changed from manual workload returns to the Ministry's electronic Case Management System (CMS). The manual data only reported on cases that were ready to be heard, while the new CMS data includes cases that have been filed but are not yet ready to be heard. The methodology for calculating waiting time to trial for general proceedings also changed. Therefore comparisons cannot be made between the 2014 calendar year annual statistics and annual statistics published prior to June 2012.
Additionally the reporting for the December 2014 annual statistics does not include claims of historic abuse occurring within state institutions. The significant majority of these cases are concluded by confidential settlement carried out with little input by the Court. They are excluded because they do not follow the normal process for progression through the Court. For this reason new business, disposal, and active case data for general proceedings in the 2014 calendar year annual statistics cannot be compared to annual statistics published prior to June 2012.
Overview of trial performance
In recent years the proportion of civil matters determined by trial in the High Court has increased. During the 2014 calendar year, 14% of civil disposals were determined by trial, the same proportion as in the 2013 calendar year.
Cases determined by trial were heard more quickly in the 2014 calendar year than the 2013 year. This is part of an improving trend which commenced in 2011. A significant improvement in timeliness over the past year has been the time to disposal for general proceedings disposed by judgment at or following a trial. The average age for general proceedings disposed by judgment at or following a trial has decreased by 12 days from 501 days to 489 days over the past year. The median age at disposal has dropped by 41 days from 415 days as at 31 December 2013 to 374 days as at 31 December 2014.
Overview of whole of the civil jurisdiction
There has been a declining trend in the total number of civil cases filed in the High Court since mid 2010. This filing pattern reflects the impact of the economic cycle. In the 2014 calendar year, the number of civil cases filed fell 5% to 2,526 cases compared to 2,669 cases in 2013. This decrease was across all three case types; general proceedings, originating applications and judicial reviews.
Auckland accounted for 51% of all civil cases filed in the 2014 calendar year.
There were 2,473 civil cases disposed in the 2014 calendar year. This is a 5% decrease compared to 2,598 disposals in 2013.
Disposals have dropped because fewer cases have been filed. The majority of civil cases are settled by the parties without a trial.
As at 31 December 2014 there were 1,969 active civil cases (awaiting hearing or judgment), a 3% decrease compared to 31 December 2013, when there were 2,024 active civil cases.
General proceedings are most representative of a standard civil dispute brought to court. The most common types of general proceedings claims over the past 24 months were “Debt recovery” at 14% of the claims filed and ‘Natural disasters – Christchurch earthquakes’ at 12%.
In 2014, the median waiting time to trial for general proceedings (measured from the date the case was deemed ready for hearing to the future hearing date) was 259 days, compared with 267 days in 2013. The average waiting time to trial for general proceedings was 302 days, compared with 303 in 2013.
Additionally waiting time to trial for 90% of short cause ( see note 1 ) general proceedings on hand is less than 12 months; and for over 85% of long cause ( see note 2 ) general proceedings on hand is less than 18 months. Both these figures are within the performance standard timeframes set by the High Court ( see note 3 ).
As at 31 December 2014, there were 647 active insolvency proceedings (awaiting hearing or judgment), a slight decrease of 1% compared to 31 December 2013, when there were 652 active insolvency proceedings.
There were 320 civil appeals filed in the 2014 calendar year, this is a 1% increase from 2013. The number of active civil appeals is 14% lower than last year; there were 172 active appeals as at 31 December 2014 compared to 199 active appeals as at 31 December 2013.
Note 1: Short cause general proceedings have an estimated hearing time of 5 days or less
Note 2: Long cause general proceedings have an estimated hearing time of more than 5 days