New Zealand Law Society - Courts roundup 21 March - 27 March 2024

Courts roundup 21 March - 27 March 2024

Decisions, proceedings and news from the courts in some common law jurisdictions in the past week.

Auckland High Court 2

New Zealand Supreme Court

Self-represented litigant, habeas corpus

Craig v Chief Executive, Department of Corrections [2024] NZSC 23 (19 March 2024)

Unsuccessful leave application – Self-represented C serving 16-month imprisonment term DC imposed on 19 January 2024 on three charges related to breaching protection order and two charges related to possession of cannabis and refusal to give particulars to enable unlocking mobile phone – Pleaded guilty to charges –
On 16 February 2024, HC declined to issue habeas corpus writ for C – C’s application to SC essentially replicated HC arguments –
SC said for C to succeed, would have to satisfy Court necessary in interests of justice to hear and determine appeal under leave criteria in s 74(2) Senior Courts Act 2016 – Given sought leave to appeal directly to SC from HC also needed to show exceptional circumstances –
SC said nothing C raised suggested HC wrong – Did not meet leave criteria – Application dismissed.

New Zealand Court of Appeal

Murder, Addiction, Manifestly excessive

Izett v R [2024] NZCA 64

Unsuccessful appeal against sentence of life imprisonment with an MPI of 17 years for murder of 2 year old daughter – Other charges sentenced to be served concurrently – Appellant claims sentence is manifestly excessive – Claims murder was committed whilst under the influence of methamphetamine (meth), that this is addiction-driven and thus involuntary - Appellant asserts that addiction is akin to a mental health disorder and should have been taken into consideration as a mitigating factor – Appellant was in an unstable mental state at the time of the offending, offending occurred whilst he was under the influence of meth and cannabis, and his use of those drugs either contributed to or caused him to be in the state he was in at the time of the offending – Nothing to suggest appellants decision to take meth was involuntary because of addiction – HELD: Sentence not manifestly unjust – Appeal dismissed.

Manslaughter, Road rage, Mistaken identity

Champion v R [2024] NZCA 65

Successful appeal against sentence of 24 months imprisonment for manslaughter – Grounds that starting point too high, discounts too small, and home detention the most appropriate sentence – Starting point not out of range - Appellant escalated matters aggravating the situation – Discounts carefully assessed – Purposes and principles of sentencing not best served by sentence of imprisonment - HELD: Appeal allowed - Substituted sentence of 7 months home detention with conditions.

New Zealand High Court

Sentencing, murder

R v Simpson [2024] NZHC 623 (21 March 2024) Whata J

Sentencing – S sentenced for murder and unlawful possession of firearm – Offending involved single shot fired from car after verbal exchange between victim and offender – Victim walking away from car at time of shooting – Shooting in afternoon when children leaving nearby school – S 21 years old at time of offending with background of social deprivation and gang affiliation – Key issue to be decided was whether offender should serve life or fixed imprisonment term –

Life imprisonment with 10 years MPI – Life sentence not manifestly unjust – Difference between MPI for determinate sentence and indeterminate sentence not grossly disparate having regard to seriousness of offending and trauma – Youth and combination of other factors could make life imprisonment manifestly unjust – However, life imprisonment not unjust because of using firearm in residential location close to school and at time when children likely to be present.

Supreme Court of Canada

Evidence, “illogical” inferences

R v Boudreau [2024] SCC 9 (20 March 2024)

Unsuccessful appeal from Quebec CA – Issue on appeal whether judge presiding over dangerous driving trial rendered unreasonable decision based on inferences that were illogical and clearly contradicted by evidence –

B convicted of dangerous driving causing bodily harm after collision between his vehicle and complainant’s on Québec City highway in 2017 – B’s vehicle rear‑ended complainant’s – Complainant suffered cervical dorsal sprain, symptoms of which persisted at trial four years later –

Complainant and B gave contradictory versions of events – Finding B had been driving erratically prior to collision, judge relied on three witness accounts and video obtained from transport department camera that showed B driving before vehicle climbed hill and went out of camera range – Because collision itself could not be seen on video, judge had only complainants and B’s accounts available to determine happened at impact – Said B’s version inconsistent with report assessing damage to complainant’s vehicle – Said if complainant had suddenly moved into left lane, damage would have been on left side of vehicle, not rear – Judge accepted complainant’s version of events and convicted B –

B appealed conviction to Quebec CA – Said trial judge made errors assessing evidence and those errors had led to unreasonable decision – CA majority Appeal dismissed appeal – One Judge dissented – Said trial judge made two errors that had led to unreasonable decision – Firstly, trial judge had wrongly rejected B's testimony on basis of illogical inference, namely that if complainant had suddenly changed lanes, impact would have occurred on left side of car, not left rear corner – Secondly, said trial judge’s finding that complainant driving in left lane well before impact contradicted by complainant herself, who stated that she had moved into left lane because of congestion in right lane –

SC said even though judge could have expressed herself more clearly at times, B had not shown reviewable error, because judge’s inference based on whole of evidence – In particular, no reviewable error regarding complainant’s testimony about position of her car at time of collision – As result, and substantially for CA majority’s reasons, SC unanimously dismissed appeal.

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