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Annual statistics for the High Court 31 December 2017

High Court criminal jurisdiction - year ended 31 December 2017

On 1 July 2013, the procedural provisions affecting criminal trials changed with the commencement of most of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 (CPA) provisions. Four High Court 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 (known as Category 4 cases and are generally murder/manslaughter matters) 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 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.

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.

This analysis compares figures as at 31 December 2017 and 31 December 2016.

Criminal Trials

182 new criminal trials were received by the High Court in 2017, an increase of 20 cases (12%) compared to last year when there were 162 new trials.

These 182 new trials were made up as follows

  • Category 4 cases - 66 cases (36%)
  • Protocol and other cases [2] - 102 cases (56%)
  • Split/reactivated cases and re-trials directed by appellate courts - 14 cases (8%)

As at 31 December 2017, there were 130 criminal trials on hand which is a 5% increase compared with the previous calendar year when there were 124 trials on hand. Of these 130 criminal trials on hand

  • 121 cases were awaiting trial and 9 cases were awaiting sentence.
  • 125 cases will follow the CPA process.

Estimated hearing days for trials remain high. As at 31 December 2017, the estimated hearing days for these trials were 1707 days (an average of 14 days per trial) compared to 1306 days (an average of 13 days per trial) as at 31 December 2016.

The total number of cases disposed [3] during the year decreased by 16 cases (9%) from 164 to 155 cases. Of disposals with final outcomes, 55 cases (42%) were disposed by guilty plea compared with 50 (39%) last year.

The vast majority (99%) of the cases disposed followed the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 (CPA) process in the 2017 calendar year. These cases had an average age at disposal of 528 days. Only one case was disposed during the year under the Summary Proceedings Act 1957 (SPA).

Trials held decreased by 6 cases (7%) to 77 compared to the previous calendar year. Of these trials held, 12 cases (16%) were disposed by guilty plea on the day compared to 13 cases (16%) last year.

The median waiting time to trial from committal (SPA) or post case review (CPA) process increased by 47 days (16%) to 341 days compared to the previous calendar year.

Criminal appeals

This analysis compares figures as at 31 December 2017 and 31 December 2016.

In the 2017 calendar year, new filings for criminal appeals decreased slightly by 11 cases (1%) from 1,134 to 1,123 new criminal appeals compared to the previous calendar year. Over the same period, the number of appeals disposed decreased by 18 cases (2%) from 1,160 to 1,142 disposals. As at 31 December 2017 the number of active appeals were 125 cases [4], a 10 case (7%) decrease compared to 31 December 2016.

High Court Civil jurisdiction – year ended 31 December 2017

Note:

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), the Environment Court or a Tribunal.

The analysis below compares figures at financial year ending 31 December 2017 and 31 December 2016.

Civil Jurisdiction Overview

The number of new civil cases filed has increased slightly by 51 (2%) from 2,602 last year to 2,653 this year. There were 2,352 civil cases disposed nationally, which remained relatively constant compared to the 2,360 cases disposed in the previous year. As a result of the increase in new business, there were 2,542 active civil cases on hand (awaiting hearing or judgment) which is a (282 case) 12% increase compared to last year when there were 2,260 active civil cases.

Long-term trends

Over the last two years there has been an increasing trend in the number of active civil cases. This trend has been driven by an influx of new civil cases arising from statutory deadlines affecting cases arising from the Christchurch earthquakes and Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011.

The decreasing trend in the number of general proceedings cases disposed continued.

Both new and disposed insolvency cases have been trending down for several years.

Active civil appeals have returned to a normal level, following a spike in new appeals due to appeals filed against Auckland Unitary Plan in 2016.

Cases involving historic abuse in state institutions

As noted in the annual statistics for the period ended 30 June 2017, statistics for the years ended June 2013 until December 2016 did not include figures for new business, disposals and active case statistics for claims of historic abuse within state institutions. These cases were filed predominantly in the Wellington High Court. The reason for the omission was because many historic abuse cases, although filed in court, were being considered by an alternative dispute mechanism with the Crown. In accordance with the data principle that performance measures should only include matters the Court can control, a decision was taken to exclude these cases from these reported statistics. It was considered that had the cases continued to be counted for this series of statistics they would have given the appearance of a greater practical workload in Wellington than was actually the case.

That decision has been reviewed and reversed. Data about historic abuse cases has been included in this dataset commencing with the set of statistics for the year ended June 2017.

The figures for historic abuse cases for period until December 2016 are set out below.

Filings, disposals and active historic abuse cases
for the period 1 January 2013 until December 2016

Year ended December

        Period                              

Opening Balance

Filings

Disposals

Closing Balance

1/1/13 - 31/12/13

337

10

18

329

1/1/14 - 31/12/14

329

27

14

342

1/1/15 - 31/12/15

342

110

11

441

1/1/16 - 31/12/16

441

26

18

449

 

General Proceedings

General proceedings are the most representative type of civil dispute brought to court.

The greatest proportion of general proceedings claims over the past 12 months were earthquake related cases ("Natural disasters – Christchurch earthquakes” and “Building defects - Christchurch earthquakes”) which made up 20% of the claims filed. "Contractual Disputes" and "Debt Recovery" cases made up 14% and 9% cases filed respectively.

There were 1,416 general proceedings filed during the 2017 calendar year which was a 143 (9%) decrease in the number of new cases filed compared to the previous year. The biggest decrease in filings occurred in the Christchurch High Court where filings dropped by 152 from 469 to 317 cases. Christchurch filings were high in late 2016 to mid-2017 to meet possible Limitation Act 2010 defences to proceedings. As 2017 progressed, filings in Christchurch dropped as the 6th anniversaries of the 2010-2011 earthquakes passed.

Disposals decreased by 38 cases (3%) from 1,365 in 2017 to 1,327 cases in 2016. As at 31 December 2017 there were 1,895 general proceedings active (awaiting hearing or awaiting judgment) compared to 1,794 active cases the same time of last year.

A feature of the caseload in the Christchurch High Court was that 78% of the 623 active general proceedings were earthquake-related cases.

The median waiting time [5] to trial for active general proceedings cases increased by 35 days (12%) to 321 days compared to the previous year.

Originating Applications

There were 1,045 originating applications filed during the 2017 calendar year. Nationwide, this was a significant 234 (24%) increase compared to the previous year. The increase was due to the large number of originating applications filed under the Marine & Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 before the statutory deadline for filing of 3 April 2017. There were 520 originating applications active (awaiting hearing or judgment) compared to 312 active cases last year.

Insolvency Proceedings

There were 2,167 insolvency proceedings filed during the 2017 calendar year. This was a significant 538 (20%) decrease in the number of new cases filed compared to the previous year. Disposals decreased by 425 (16%) to 2,272 cases disposed in the 2017 calendar year compared to the 2016 calendar year. There were 548 insolvency proceedings active compared to 633 active cases last year. [6]

Appeal Proceedings

There were 279 civil appeals filed during the 2017 calendar year. Nationwide, this was a significant 83 case (23%) decrease in the number of new cases filed compared to the previous year. The number of active civil appeals (awaiting hearing or judgment) also decreased significantly by 65 cases (26%) from 247 to 182 active appeals. This decrease was the result of new civil appeals and active appeals returning to their previous levels following the disposal of appeals lodged in respect of the Auckland Unitary Plan in 2016.



[1] See s66 CPA and the most recent Court of Trial protocol.

[2] As well as protocol cases directed to be heard in the High Court, included are cases transferred to the High Court under s 70 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 and cases transferred to the High Court under s 86D of the Sentencing Act 2002 (3rd strike cases).

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

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

[5] Waiting time is measured from the date the case was deemed ready for hearing to the future hearing date