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Annual statistics for the High Court 30 June 2016

High Court

Criminal jurisdiction - year ended 30 June 2016


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. Currently a small number of High Court trial trials on hand remain to be dealt with under the previous legislation, the Summary Proceedings Act 1957 (SPA).

Under the CPA, cases that are High Court-only offences (generally murder/manslaughter) have their first appearance in the District Court and are then managed in the High Court from second appearance onwards. The rest of the trials to be heard in the High Court are known as “protocol cases”. [1] Protocol cases are made up mainly of serious sexual, violence, drug and fraud offences. After a case review hearing in the District Court, a High Court judge determines whether the protocol case should be heard in the High Court or District Court. If the case is ordered to be heard in the High Court, it is counted as a High Court case from that time.

As there are two procedural regimes in place, decisions were made about how to describe the caseload of criminal trials, to enable valid volume comparisons across years. Cases are counted as ready for trial under the SPA once they are committed for trial, and they are counted as ready for trial under the CPA once they have had a case review hearing or protocol determination.


Criminal trials

This analysis compares figures as at 30 June 2016 and 30 June 2015. This year the number of new criminal trials received by the High Court decreased to 178, down from 204 last year. Of these 178 new trials, 19 were split/reactivated cases from another High Court case. Of the new trials received in the period, 23% were murder/manslaughter cases and a further 29% were sexual assault cases.

As at 30 June 2016, there were 120 active criminal trials. This is a 29% decrease compared to the 30 June 2015 when there were 168 trials. This is the lowest number of active trials since 2005. Of those 120 active criminal trials, 114 follow the CPA process. Despite a drop in the number of trials on hand, estimated hearing days remain high.

Since 2012 the estimated days per case has risen from just over 10 days per trial to almost 14 days. This change reflects the complexity of trials on hand in the court, in particular company fraud cases and multi-accused drug cases and the additional time taken for cases which require interpretation.

The total number of cases disposed [2] increased by 7% to 202, up from 188 in last year.[3] The increase is largely attributed to the 53 cases that were merged. Of these disposals with final outcomes, 46% of cases were disposed by guilty plea (compared with 45% in the previous year).

There was a 17% decrease in the number of trials held, dropping from 96 last year to 79 this year. Of these trials held, 24% were disposed by guilty plea (compared with 20% in the earlier period).

The median waiting time to trial from committal (SPA) or post case review (CPA) was 314 days this year, a decrease of 22 days from last year (336 median days).

Ninety per cent of the cases disposed followed the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 (CPA) process. The average age of CPA cases disposed was 428 days. High Court direct-committal cases (category 4 cases) took an average of 383 days and the cases that were required a trial location decision (such as protocol and S70 cases) took 458 days. [4]

The Summary Proceedings Act 1957 (SPA) cases disposed during the year are older than CPA cases. There were 7 of these cases disposed with an average age of 936 days at disposal.

Criminal appeals

New filings for criminal appeals are similar. There were 1,140 new criminal appeals filed in this year compared to 1,141 last year.

Over the same period there were 1,170 disposals, a 2% decrease from the 1,190 in the previous year.

As at 30 June, there were 178 [5] active appeals, a 16% decrease from 30 June 2015, when there were 211 active appeals.

Footnotes criminal jurisdiction

[1] See s 66 Criminal Procedure Act and the most recent Court of Trial Protocol (PDF, 40.8 KB)

[2] “Disposed cases” are defined having a final outcome, e.g. sentence, acquittal, dismissal, withdrawal, or joined to another case.

[3] Some of this increase is more apparent than real. In the year 2015/16, disposals were higher as a larger number of cases were joined to another case than in the year 2014/15.

[4] The cases that required a trial location decision generally are older than High Court direct committal cases as they are subject to some statutory timeframes before they reach the High Court. The statutory timeframe to case review for protocol cases is 84 days (60 working days) and the protocol decision is expected to be made shortly after case review (5-10 working days maximum).

[5] Data is extracted from a live database. Late changes to information in the system may affect some statistics in the reports.

Civil jurisdiction - year ended 30 June 2016


Civil cases in this context include: general proceedings, judicial reviews, and originating applications.

Insolvency cases are bankruptcy cases (where an adjudication application 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 reporting for the 2015/16 annual statistics does not include claims of historic abuse 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 2015/2016 annual statistics cannot be compared to annual statistics published prior to June 2012.


Overview of trial performance

This analysis compares figures as at 30 June 2016 and 30 June 2015.

This year 14% of civil disposals were determined by trial, similar to the 13% figure the year before. This is a high rate compared to other common law jurisdictions.

The average time to disposal for general proceedings disposed of by trial increased by 16 days compared to the year before, while the median age increased by 57 days. This increase in the median and average age of general proceedings disposed of by trial has been driven in part by the disposal of some very old cases.

Overview of whole of the civil jurisdiction

The number of new civil cases filed has decreased by 6% from 2,590 last year to 2,437 this year.

There were 2,370 civil cases disposed nationally, almost the same as in the previous year where 2,504 civil cases were disposed.

As the volume of new business was more than disposals, this resulted in 2,005 active civil cases on hand (awaiting hearing or judgment). This is a 3% increase compared to last year when there were 1,941 active civil cases.

General proceedings

General proceedings are most representative of a standard civil dispute brought to court. The top three types of general proceedings claims over the past 12 months were “Natural disasters – Christchurch earthquakes”(including “Building defects - Christchurch earthquakes”) at 12% of the claims filed and “Contractual disputes” and “Debt Recovery” cases at 9% and 8% respectively. [6]

There were 1,424 general proceedings filed during the year. This is a 9% decrease compared to last year. There were 1,413 general proceedings that were disposed, an 8% decrease compared to the previous year. There were 1,583 active general proceedings on hand (awaiting hearing or awaiting judgment) compared to 1,560 active general proceedings last year.

The median waiting time to trial for general proceedings cases which were active (waiting time is measured from the date the case was deemed ready for hearing to the future hearing date) was 299 days compared with 273 days for the previous year end.

Waiting time to trial for 90% of short cause [7] general proceedings on hand is less than 12 months; and for 97% of long cause [8] general proceedings on hand is less than 18 months. These figures are 6% decline and 3% improvement respectively compared to the same point last year. Both figures are above the performance targets set by the High Court, which aim to have a target compliance rate of 80%.[9]

Insolvency proceedings

There were 2,666 cases filed compared to 2,855 last year. After a period of decline beginning in early 2015, new filings have begun to increase. This has led to a 12% increase of active insolvency proceedings on hand (546 to 612 cases).

Appeal proceedings

There were 321 civil appeals filed which is a 2% increase compared to the previous year. The number of active civil appeals (awaiting hearing or awaiting judgment) was 184, an increase of 7% from 172 active appeals last year.


Footnotes civil jurisdiction

[6] Since 1 January 2013 the High Court has recorded the nature of claims for new General Proceedings filings.

[7] Short cause general proceedings have an estimated hearing time of 5 days or less

[8] Long cause general proceedings have an estimated hearing time of more than 5 days


WorkloadWaiting time*
High Court national workload statistics
High Court criminal trials workload statistics High Court criminal trial waiting time for scheduled hearing
High Court criminal trials held
High Court civil proceedings workload statistics High Court civil proceedings waiting time for scheduled hearing
High Court insolvency workload statistics
High Court criminal appeals workload statistics
High Court civil appeals workload statistics


* Notes on waiting times