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Supreme courts roundup, 1 to 7 November 2019

07 November 2019

Decisions, proceedings and news from the highest courts in some common law jurisdictions in the last week are as follows:

Supreme Court of New Zealand

Rangitira Developments Ltd v Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc [2019] NZSC 121 (5 November 2019). Leave to appeal against a judgment of the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal judgment dealt with the approach to be taken by the Buller District Council (the Council) to Rangitira’s application for an access arrangement with the Council to enable the development of a mine on reserve land administered by the Council – Whether the Court of Appeal was in error is setting aside the declarations made at [86] of the judgment of the HC.

Joe v R [2019] NZSC 120 (4 October 2019).Unsuccessful application for leave to appeal against a decision of the Court of Appeal dismissing his appeal against sentence. Leave reserved to renew the application.

The applicant was convicted of kidnapping, male assaults female and threatening to do grievous bodily harm – The appellant claimed the appeal should not have been dealt with on the basis that one of the two convictions involved what the complainant described as a “round house” kick to the head, because the appellant was acquitted on that charge and the relevant charge involved a punch to the head – He also claimed that the Court of Appeal should have corrected the concurrent sentences imposed on the two male assaults female charges – Finally he argued that the Court treated the remark the complainant said that he made in the course of the one of the incidents as a threat to kill – The respondent submitted that the correct approach is for the applicant to seek a recall of the Court of Appeal judgment.

Dean v Associate Minister of Immigration [2019] NZSC 119 (4 November 2019). Unsuccessful application for leave to appeal against a decision of the Court of Appeal.

The HC had dismissed her application for judicial review of the decision of the respondent refusing to cancel her liability to deportation from New Zealand under s172 of the Immigration Act 2009 and to grant her a visa under s61 of that Act - The respondent’s decision was a decision in the respondent’s “absolute discretion”, as that term is defined in s 11 of the Immigration Act – Both the HC and the Court of Appeal concluded the decision of the respondent not to intervene was not unreasonable – The applicant wanted to argue that the court should apply a “heightened scrutiny of whether the decision was reasonable in the Wednesbury sense” when reviewing a decision under ss61 or 172 of the Immigration Act – Whether the case was a suitable vehicle for a consideration of the issue of the intensity of the review to be applied in a judicial review.

High Court of Australia


Fennell v R [2019] HCA 37
(6 November 2019). Successful appeal from the Supreme Court of Queensland.

The appellant was convicted of murder by a jury – The Crown case was based entirely on circumstantial evidence – The circumstantial evidence related to opportunity and motive and miscellany of other inculpatory matters – The evidence of opportunity and motive was extremely weak – The evidence connecting the accused to the alleged murder weapon was based on glaringly improbable identification evidence – Whether the verdict was unreasonable or could not be supported having regard to evidence.

Vella v Commissioner of Police (NSW) [2019] HCA 38 (6 November 2019). The Court answered no to the question of law: Whether subsection 5(1) of the Crimes (Serious Crime Prevention Orders) Act 2016 (NSW) is invalid (in whole or in part) because it is inconsistent with and prohibited by Chapter III of the Constitution.

Section 5(1) of Crimes (Serious Crime Prevention Orders) Act 2016 (NSW) provides that State court may make order if satisfied that specified person has been convicted of serious criminal offence or involved in serious crime related activity and satisfied that reasonable grounds to believe that making of order would protect public by preventing, restricting or disrupting involvement by that person in serious crime related activities – Section 6(1) of the Act provides that order against that specified person may contain such prohibitions, restrictions, requirements and other provisions as the court considers appropriate for purpose of protecting the public by preventing, restricting or disrupting involvement by that person in serious crime related activities – Proceedings under the Act are civil proceedings – Whether making order is an exercise of judicial power – Whether powers conferred by the Act are incompatible with State court's role as repository of federal judicial power – Whether the powers conferred by the Act substantially impair the institutional integrity of State court.

Supreme Court of Canada


Threlfall v Carleton University [2019] SCC 50
(31 October 2019). Unsuccessful appeal (majority) from the Court of Appeal for Quebec.

In September 2000, R, a retiree, decided to go for a walk – He never returned and could not be found – R was presumed to be alive for seven years following his disappearance unless proof of death is made before then - R become an absentee upon disappearance under art.84 of the Civil Code of Québec (C.C.Q.) - R’s pension plan provided that pension payments would stop upon his death - Presumption of life requires his former employer to continue making pension payments to R despite his disappearance - R’s remains were discovered six years after his disappearance and death was recorded as having occurred the day after disappearance – His former employer sought reimbursement of pension payments made to R after the recorded date of death - Whether rights and obligations premised on an absentee’s continued existence while he or she is presumed alive are retroactively extinguished from true date of death where proof of death is made within seven years of disappearance - Civil Code of Québec, art. 85 - Requirements of error and of absence of debt were not present at time the payments made but surfacing at later date - Whether remedy of receipt of payment not due allows for restitution to former employer of payments made to absentee presumed to be alive who is later established to have been dead at time of payments - Civil Code of Québec, art.1491.

Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal

No decisions released during this period

Judicial Committee of the Privy Council

C v C [2019] UKPC 40 (31 October 2019). Unsuccessful appeal from the Court of Appeal of Jersey.

The appellant and the respondent met in Latvia in 2000 and were in a relationship until around the end of 2002 - On 20 June 2003 the respondent had a child, A, and the appellant was registered on the birth certificate as his father - The parties’ relationship resumed in November 2005 - In June 2006 they applied successfully in Latvia for the rectification of the birth certificate to register the appellant as the father - The parties moved to Jersey in 2008 - The relationship broke down and in July 2010 the respondent moved with A back to Latvia - She applied to the Jersey court for financial relief for A’s benefit - The appellant failed in his application to the Latvian courts for a further rectification of the birth certificate to remove his registration as A’s father - The Jersey courts held that the appellant should be treated as a parent based on his status as such under Latvian law, and that he was liable to make financial provision for A - Whether it was open to Jersey courts to treat the appellant as a ‘parent’ for the purpose of orders for financial provision under the Children (Jersey) Law 2002.

Supreme Court of Ireland

No decisions released during this period

Singapore Court of Appeal

YCH Distripark v Collector of Inland Revenue [2019] SGCA 59 (31 October 2019). Unsuccessful application to strike out the appellant’s notice of appeal.

The application concerned the interpretation of s29(2) of the Land Acquisition Act (Cap 152, 1985 Rev Ed) - Section 29(2) governs appeals from the Appeals Board to the Court of Appeal - Whether “award", as determined by the Board in s29(2) refers to:(i) the total composite amount awarded by the Board on both the portions of the Collector’s award which were disputed before it and the and the portions of the Collector’s award which were not disputed before it; or only (ii) the amount awarded by the Board on the portions of the Collector’s award which were disputed before it.

Griffin Real Estate Investment holdings Pte Ltd (in liquidation) v ERC Unicampus Ltd [2019] SGCA 57 (24 October 2019). Partially successful appeal from the High Court.

Judgment on the formula used for computing the share of profit for the plaintiff in the Originating Summons, arising from the sale of the Big Hotel in September 2015 - Whether the Expenses item should not feature in the first half of the equation and whether it should rightly be factored in only the second half of the equation in the formula for computing the net profit.

Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

No decisions released during this period

Supreme Court of the United States

No decisions released during this period

Last updated on the 7th November 2019