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Annual statistics for the High Court 31 December 2018

High Court Criminal Jurisdiction - year ended 31 December 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.

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 31 December 2018 and 31 December 2017.

Criminal Trials

177 new criminal trials were received by the High Court this year, a decrease of 5 cases (3%) compared to 182 new criminal trials last year.

These 177 new criminal trials were made up as follows

  • Category 4 cases - 76 cases (43%)
  • Protocol and other cases [2] - 80 cases (45%)
  • Split, reactivated cases and re-trials directed [3] - 21 cases (12%)

As at 31 December 2018, there were 139 criminal trials on hand, an increase of 9 trials (7%) compared to 130 trials on hand last year. Of the 139 criminal trials on hand, 131 cases were awaiting trial and 8 cases were awaiting sentencing.

Estimated hearing days for trials have increased. As at 31 December 2018, the estimated hearing days for the 131 cases awaiting trial was 1947 days (an average of 14.9 days per trial) compared to 1707 days for the 116 cases awaiting trial (an average of 14.7 days per trial) at the same time last year.

The number of criminal trials disposed [4] this year was 148 cases, a decrease of 8 cases (5%) compared to 155 cases last year. Of the disposals with final outcomes, 65 cases (50%) were disposed by guilty plea this year compared with 55 (42%) last year.

The vast majority (97%) of the cases disposed this year were dealt with under the CPA process. These cases had an average age at disposal of 482 days. Four cases were disposed during the year that were commenced under the Summary Proceedings Act 1957 process.

The number of criminal trials held this year was 92 cases, an increase of 15 cases (19%) compared to 77 cases last year. Of the trials held this year, 22 cases (24%) were disposed by guilty plea on the day compared to 12 cases (16%) last year.

The median waiting time to trial from committal (SPA process) or post case review (CPA process) was 363 days, an increase of 22 days (6%) compared to 341 days last year.

Criminal appeals

This analysis compares figures as at 31 December 2018 and 31 December 2017.

There were 1,075 criminal appeals filed this year, a decrease of 48 cases (4%) compared to the 1,123 cases filed last year. There were 1,039 cases disposed this year compared to 1,142 cases last year, a decrease of 103 cases (9%).

As at 31 December 2018, the number of active criminal appeals (awaiting hearing or judgment) was 176, an increase of 51 cases (41%) compared to 125 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 December 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 31 December 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 31 December 2018 and 31 December 2017.

Civil Jurisdiction Overview

There were 2,346 new civil cases filed this year, a decrease of 307 cases (12%) compared to the 2,653 cases filed last year. There were 2,266 civil cases disposed nationally, a decrease of 40 cases (2%) compared to the 2,306 cases disposed last year.

As at 31 December 2018, the number of active civil cases (awaiting hearing or judgment) was 3,031, an increase of 58 cases (2%) compared to 2,973 active civil cases last year.

Cases involving historic abuse in state institutions

As at 31 December 2018, there are 478 cases on hand involving historic abuse in state institutions in the Wellington High Court. Five cases are being actively managed while the remaining 473 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 31 December 2018 above and, as a result, adds 473 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 2018, the number of active civil cases on hand has only increased slightly.

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.

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 19% of the claims filed. "Contractual Disputes" and "Estate Litigation" cases made up 13% and 8% cases filed respectively.

There were 1,289 general proceedings filed this year, a decrease of 127 cases (9%) compared to the 1,416 cases filed last year. The decrease in filings in the Auckland registry saw filings drop by 76 cases (12%) from 611 cases to 535, in the Christchurch registry filings dropped by 30 cases (9%) from 317 cases to 287 and in the Wellington registry filings dropped by 29 cases (14%) from 205 cases to 176.

There were 1,250 cases disposed this year compared to 1,281 cases last year, a decrease of 31 cases (2%). The number of active general proceedings (awaiting hearing or judgment) was 2,372, an increase of 46 cases (2%) compared to 2,326 active general proceedings last year.

The number of active cases in the Auckland registry decreased by 39 cases to 662 cases. The number of active cases in the Wellington registry increased by 21 cases to 691 cases. The number of active cases in the Christchurch registry increased by 20 cases to 643 cases of which 79% were earthquake-related cases.

The median waiting time [6] to trial for active general proceedings was 350 days, an increase of 9 days (3%) compared to 321 days last year.

Judicial Reviews

There were 194 judicial reviews filed this year, an increase of 2 cases (1%), compared to the 192 cases filed last year. There were 179 cases disposed this year compared to 201 cases last year, a decrease of 22 cases (11%).

As at 31 December 2018, the number of active judicial reviews (awaiting hearing or judgment) was 138, an increase of 11 cases (9%) compared to 127 active judicial reviews last year.

Originating Applications

There were 863 originating applications filed this year, a decrease of 182 cases (18%) compared to the 1,045 cases filed last year.

The significant change was mainly due to the large number of originating applications filed in the year to 31 December 2017 under the Marine & Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 before the statutory deadline of 3 April 2017.

There were 887 cases disposed this year compared to the 824 cases disposed last year, an increase of 13 cases (2%).

As at 31 December 2018, the number of active originating applications (awaiting hearing or judgment) was 521, an increase of 1 case (0.2%) compared to 520 active originating applications last year.

Civil Appeals

There were 268 civil appeals filed this year, a decrease of 11 cases (4%) compared to the 279 cases filed last year. There were 282 cases disposed this year compared to 323 cases last year, a decrease of 41 cases (13%).

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 31 December 2018, the number of active civil appeals (awaiting hearing or judgment) was 155, a decrease of 27 cases (15%) compared to 182 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 1,907 insolvency proceedings filed this year, a decrease of 260 cases (12%) compared to the 2,167 cases filed last year. There were 1,995 cases disposed this year compared to 2,272 cases last year, a decrease of 277 cases (12%).

As at 31 December 2018, the number of active insolvency proceedings (awaiting hearing or judgment) was 473, a decrease of 75 cases (14%) compared to 548 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.