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Annual statistics for the High Court 30 June 2018

High Court Criminal Jurisdiction - year ended 30 June 2018

On 1 July 2013, the procedural provisions affecting criminal trials changed with the commencement of most of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 (CPA) provisions. One High Court trial on hand remains 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/attempted murder charges) 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 CPA once they have had a case review hearing or protocol determination.

This analysis compares figures as at 30 June 2018 and 30 June 2017.

Criminal Trials

165 new criminal trials were received by the High Court this year, a decrease of 14 cases (8%) compared to 179 new criminal trials last year.

These 165 new criminal trials were made up as follows

  • Category 4 cases - 70 cases (42%)
  • Protocol and other cases [2] - 79 cases (48%)
  • Split, reactivated cases and re-trials directed [3] - 16 cases (10%)

As at 30 June 2018, there were 135 criminal trials on hand, a decrease of 10 trials (7%) compared to 145 trials on hand last year. Of the 135 criminal trials on hand, 120 cases were awaiting trial and 15 cases were awaiting sentencing.

Estimated hearing days for trials has increased. As at 30 June 2018, the estimated hearing days for these trials were 1908 days (an average of 15.9 days per trial) compared to 1676 days (an average of 13.5 days per trial) at the same time last year.

The number of criminal trials disposed [4] this year was 155 cases, an increase of 18 cases (13%) compared to 137 cases last year. Of the disposals with final outcomes, 61 cases (46%) were disposed by guilty plea this year compared with 47 (41%) last year.

The vast majority (98%) of the cases disposed this year were dealt with under the CPA process. These cases had an average age at disposal of 495 days. Three cases were disposed during the year under the SPA process.

The number of criminal trials held this year was 92 cases, an increase of 21 cases (30%) compared to 71 cases last year. Of the trials held this year, 22 cases (24%) were disposed by guilty plea on the day compared to 9 cases (13%) last year.

The median waiting time to trial from committal (SPA process) or post case review (CPA process) was 347 days, an increase of 33 days (11%) compared to 314 days last year.

Criminal appeals

This analysis compares figures as at 30 June 2018 and 30 June 2017.

There were 1,065 criminal appeals filed this year, a decrease of 128 cases (11%) compared to the 1,193 cases filed last year. There were 1,106 cases disposed this year compared to 1,174 cases last year, a decrease of 68 cases (6%).

As at 30 June 2018, the number of active criminal appeals (awaiting hearing or judgment) was 150, a decrease of 39 cases (21%) compared to 189 active criminal appeals last year[5].


[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 under s 86D of the Sentencing Act 2002 (3rd strike cases).

[3] Reactivated cases are cases that have had a re-trial directed by the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court. Re-trials directed refers to cases where a trial had a hung jury or was aborted and the High Court has directed a new trial.

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

[5] The 2017 balance figure noted here is the one noted in the June 2017 year-end statistics. The Ministry updates its figures for 12 months so changes can occur following late data entry or error correction.

 

High Court Civil jurisdiction – year ended 30 June 2018 

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 compares figures as at 30 June 2018 and 30 June 2017.

Civil Jurisdiction Overview

There were 2,510 new civil cases filed this year, a decrease of 275 cases (10%) compared to the 2,785 cases filed last year. There were 2,294 civil cases disposed nationally, a decrease of 114 cases (5%) compared to the 2,408 cases disposed last year.

As at 30 June 2018, the number of active civil cases (awaiting hearing or judgment) was 3,010, an increase of 640 cases (27%) compared to 2,370 active civil cases last year.

Cases involving historic abuse in state institutions

As at 30 June 2018, there are 459 cases on hand involving historic abuse in state institutions in the Wellington High Court, 10 are being actively managed while the remaining 449 currently do not require management.

As noted previously, statistics for claims of historic abuse within state institutions were not included between years ended June 2013 until December 2016, but the decision has now been made to include them. So, data about the historic abuse cases has been included in the statistics for the year ending 30 June 2018 above and, as a result, adds 449 cases to the increase of active civil cases above and active General Proceedings noted later.

Long-term trends

Despite the decrease in new civil cases filed and a small decrease in disposals in the 2017/2018 year, the number of active civil cases on hand has increased.

It was noted in the 30 June 2017 report that the increase in fillings in the 2016/2017 year was attributable to:

- an increase in the Christchurch earthquake general proceedings being filed in anticipation of the Limitation Act 2010 time limits (6 years); and

- an increase in originating applications filed under the Marine & Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 (MACA) before the statutory deadline of 3 April 2017.

The influx of those types of cases has impacted on the number of cases on hand and are likely to do so into the future.

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 the new appeals filed involving the Auckland Unitary Plan in 2016.

General Proceedings

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

The greatest proportion of general proceedings claims filed in the past 12 months were earthquake related cases ("Natural disasters – Christchurch earthquakes” and “Building defects - Christchurch earthquakes”) which made up 26% of the claims filed. "Contractual Disputes" and "Estate Litigation" cases made up 12% and 7% cases filed respectively.

There were 1,460 general proceedings filed this year, a decrease of 73 cases (5%) compared to the 1533 cases filed last year. The biggest decrease in filings occurred in the Auckland circuit where filings dropped by 78 cases (12%) from 642 cases to 564. The number of filings in the Christchurch registry remained reasonably steady, 405 cases this year compared to 414 cases last year.

There were 1,290 cases disposed this year compared to 1,375 cases last year, a decrease of 85 cases (6%). The number of active general proceedings (awaiting hearing or judgment) was 2,363, an increase of 605 cases (34%) compared to 1,758 active general proceedings last year.

The number of active cases in the Auckland circuit increased by 2 cases to 846 cases. The number of active cases in the Wellington circuit increased by 479 cases to 790 cases, which includes the 449 historic abuse cases now being counted.

The number of active cases in the Christchurch circuit increased by 124 cases, which was due to an increase of 124 cases (22%) in the Christchurch registry where there are now 680 active cases compared to 556 last year. A feature of the caseload in the Christchurch registry was that 81% of the 680 active general proceedings were earthquake-related cases.

The median waiting time [6] to trial for active general proceedings was 361 days, an increase of 55 days (18%) compared to 306 days last year.

Judicial Reviews

There were 209 judicial reviews filed this year, an increase of 11 cases (6%), compared to the 198 cases filed last year. There were 182 cases disposed this year compared to 214 cases last year, a decrease of 32 cases (15%).

As at 30 June 2018, the number of active judicial reviews (awaiting hearing or judgment) was 150, an increase of 25 cases (20%) compared to 125 active judicial reviews last year.

Originating Applications

There were 841 originating applications filed this year, a decrease of 213 cases (20%) compared to the 1054 cases filed last year. The significant change is mainly due to the large number of originating applications filed last year under the Marine & Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 before the statutory deadline of 3 April 2017. As a comparison, there were 811 originating applications filed in the 2015/2016 year. There were 822 cases disposed this year compared to the 819 cases disposed last year, an increase of 3 cases (0.4%).

As at 30 June 2018, the number of active originating applications (awaiting hearing or judgment) was 497, an increase of 10 cases (2%) compared to 487 active originating applications last year.

As a comparison, there were 278 cases on hand as at 30 June 2016 which confirms the current number is mainly affected by the 191 Marine & Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 cases filed in the period on or before 3 April 2017.

Civil Appeals

There were 286 civil appeals filed this year, a decrease of 57 cases (17%) compared to the 343 cases filed last year. There were 266 cases disposed this year compared to 333 cases last year, a decrease of 67 cases (20%). The higher number of filings and disposals in the previous year was mainly due to the appeals lodged and heard in respect of the Auckland Unitary Plan in 2016/2017.

As at 30 June 2018, the number of active civil appeals (awaiting hearing or judgment) was 198, an increase of 19 cases (11%) compared to 179 active civil appeals last year.

Insolvency Proceedings

Over the past several years, there has been a decreasing trend in active insolvency proceedings and that trend continued again this year. There were 2,093 insolvency proceedings filed this year, a decrease of 311 cases (13%) compared to the 2404 cases filed last year. There were 2,145 cases disposed this year compared to 2472 cases last year, a decrease of 327 cases (13%).

As at 30 June 2018, the number of active insolvency proceedings (awaiting hearing or judgment) was 506, a decrease of 49 cases (9%) compared to 555 active insolvency proceedings last year. [7]


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

[7] The 2017 balance figures noted are those noted in the June 2017 year-end statistics. The Ministry updates its figures for 12 months so changes can occur following last data entry or error correction. 

Statistics