Annual statistics for the High Court 30 June 2017

High Court criminal jurisdiction - year ended 30 June 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.  Only a very small number of High Court trial 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 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.


The analysis below compares rolling 12 month figures at financial year ending 30 June 2017.

Long-term trends

For most of the year there was a slight decreasing trend in new criminal cases, disposals and active cases on hand. However, this trend has turned around with both new criminal cases and active cases exhibiting an increase.

This analysis below compares figures as at 30 June 2017 and 30 June 2016.

Criminal  trials

This year the number of new criminal trials received by the High Court is almost unchanged at 179, up from 178 last year.  Of these 179 new trials, 19 were split/reactivated cases from another High Court case.  Of the new trials received in the period, 28 % were Category Four cases and a further 55 % were Protocol cases.

As at 30 June 2017, there were 145 active criminal trial cases. This is a 21% increase compared with the previous year when there were 120 trial cases on hand.  Of those 145 active trials, 141 follow the CPA process.  Because of the increase in the number of trials on hand, estimated hearing days remain high.

The total number of cases disposed [2] decreased by 32% to 137, down from 202 in the previous year.  Of these disposals with final outcomes, 41% of cases were disposed by guilty plea (compared with 46% in the previous year).

There was a 10% decrease in the number of trials held, down from 79 last year to 71 this year.  Of trials held, 14% were disposed by guilty plea on the day (compared with 20% in the earlier period).

The median waiting time to trial from committal (SPA) or post case review (CPA) process was 314 days this year, which is unchanged from last year.

Ninety seven percent (97%) of the cases disposed followed the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 (CPA) process. The average age of CPA cases disposed was 524 days.  High Court direct-committal cases (Category Four cases) took an average of 437 days to dispose and the cases that required a trial location decision (such as protocol and s 70 cases) [3] took 571 days. [4]

The Summary Proceedings Act 1957 (SPA) cases disposed during the year are necessarily older than CPA cases.  A total of 4 cases were disposed of with an average age of 1,173 days at disposal.

Criminal appeals

This analysis below compares figures as at 30 June 2017 and 30 June 2016.

New filings for criminal appeals this year are slightly higher compared to last year.  This year there were 1,193 criminal appeals filed as opposed to 1,140 last year.

Over the same period, there were 1,174 disposals, a 0.3% increase from the 1,170 disposals in the previous year.

As at 30 June 2017, there were 189 active appeals, a 6% increase from the previous year when there were 178 active appeals. [5]

[1]      See s 66 CPA and the most recent Court of Trial protocol .

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

[3]     Section 70 enables a defendant or prosecutor to apply to have the case heard in the High Court.

[4]    Cases that require a trial location decision are generally older than High Court direct committal cases.  They are subject to statutory time frames before they reach the High Court.  The statutory time frame 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).

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


High Court civil jurisdiction – year ended 30 June 2017


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.

Annual statistics published on this site between years ended June 2013 and December 2016 have not included new business, disposal and active case statistics about claims of historic abuse within state institutions filed in the Wellington High Court. Such cases do not follow the normal process for progression through the Court. The significant majority of cases of this type are concluded by confidential settlement carried out with little input from the Court.   In accordance with the data principle that performance measures should only include matters the Court can control, they were excluded from the statistics.  If 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.   

It has now been decided to include data about historic abuse cases in this data set starting from the period 1 July 2016 to 30 June 2017.  In that period, 26 new cases were filed and they are included in Wellington’s general proceedings statistics. 

The number of new historic abuse cases for the earlier period are

Year ended


June 2013


December 2013


June 2014


December 2014


June 2015


December 2015


June 2016


December 2016




Long-term trends

Over the last two years there has been an increasing trend in active civil cases. This trend is driven by the 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.

Active insolvency and company liquidation cases have been trending down.

Active appeals have remained relatively constant, despite a spike in new appeals in September, as disposals have remained high.

The analysis below compares figures at financial year ending 30 June 2017 and 30 June 2016.

Overview of whole of the civil jurisdiction

The number of new civil cases filed has increased by 14% from 2,437 last year to 2,785 this year.

The increase is due to:

  1. Christchurch earthquake general proceedings filed in anticipation of the potential effect of the Limitation Act 2010 time limits as the sixth anniversary of the major Christchurch earthquakes approached.  Filings rose by 157 cases from 257 last year to 414 this year.
  2. Marine & Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 Originating Applications that were filed under Section 100 of the Marine & Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act.  A statutory deadline of 3 April 2017 was set by that legislation.  190 applications have been filed. 

There were 2,408 civil cases disposed nationally, which is a 2% increase compared to 2,370 cases disposed in the previous year.

Despite the small increase in disposals, as a result of the large increase in new business, there were 2,370 active civil cases on hand (awaiting hearing or judgment). This is an 18% increase compared to last year when there were 2,005 active civil cases.

General proceedings

General proceedings are most representative of standard civil disputes brought to court.

The top three types of general proceedings claims over the past 12 months were "Natural disasters – Christchurch earthquakes” and “Building defects - Christchurch earthquakes” at 26% of the claims filed.  "Contractual Disputes" and "Debt Recovery" cases made up 13% and 11% of cases filed respectively.

There were 1,533 general proceedings filed during the year.  Nationwide this was an 8% decrease compared to last year. In most centres filings fell, however filings were steady in Auckland (642 cases) and filings rose by 157 cases in Christchurch to 414.   There were 1,375 general proceedings disposed, a 3% decrease compared to previous year. By financial year-end there were 1,758 active general proceedings on hand (awaiting hearing or awaiting judgment) compared to 1,583 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 306 days compared with 299 days for the previous year.

Insolvency proceedings

Over the past several years, there has been a decreasing trend in active insolvency proceedings and that trend continued this year.  There were 2,404 cases filed this year compared to 2,666 cases last year. There were 2472 cases disposed this year compared to 2605 cases last year. This has led to a 9% decrease of active insolvency proceedings on hand (612 last year compared to 555 this year).;

Appeal proceedings

There were 343 civil appeals filed during the year, an increase of 7% com pared with the previous year. The increase is due to filing of appeals in respect of the Auckland Unitary Plan.  There were 333 cases disposed this year compared to 301 cases last year. The number of active civil appeals (awaiting hearing or judgment) was 179, a decrease of 3% from 184 active appeals last year.