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    New Zealand Criminal & Civil Court Record Check
New Zealand Background Check

Nationwide civil & criminal records check for New Zealand covers available courts, boards and Tribunals of the following.
  New Zealand Supreme Court
Appellate Courts
The Court of Appeal, located in Wellington, is the principal Appellate court.
High Courts
Auckland High Court
Christchurch High Court
Wellington High Court
First Instance Courts
The District Courts are the Courts of First instance in New Zealand
Alexandra District Court
Ashburton District Court
Auckland District Court
Balclutha District Court
Blenheim District Court
Chatham Islands District Court
Christchurch District Court
Dannevirke District Court
Dargaville District Court
Dunedin District Court
Feilding District Court
Gisborne High/District Court
Gore District Court
Greymouth High/District Court
Hamilton High/District Court
Hastings District Court
Hawera District Court
Huntly District Court
Invercargill High/District Court
Kaikohe District Court
Kaikoura District Court
Kaitaia District Court
Levin District Court
Lower Hutt District Court
Manukau Court
Marton District Court
Masterton High/District Court
Morrinsville District Court
Napier High/District Court
Nelson High/District Court
New Plymouth High/District Court
North Shore District Court
Oamaru District Court
Opotiki District Court
Palmerston North High/District Court
Papakura District Court
Porirua District Court
Pukekohe District Court
Queenstown District Court
Rangiora District Court
Rotorua High/District Court
Ruatoria District Court
Taihape District Court
Taumarunui District Court
Taupo District Court
Tauranga High/District Court
Te Awamutu District Court
Te Kuiti District Court
Thames District Court
Timaru High/District Court
Tokoroa District Court
Upper Hutt District Court
Waihi District Court
Waipukurau District Court
Wairoa District Court
Waitakere District Court
Wanganui High/District Court
Warkworth District Court
Wellington District Court
Westport District Court
Whakatane District Court
Whangarei High/District Court
Whataroa Court
Employment Court of New Zealand
Environment Court
Family Court of New Zealand
Maori Land Court
Privy Council (until 2004 highest appelate court)
Waitangi Tribunal
Waitangi Tribunal
Youth Court of New Zealand
New Zealand Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of New Zealand is the highest court in the land and the court of last resort in New Zealand, having formally come into existence at the beginning of 2004, and sitting for the first time on July 1, 2004. It controversially replaced the right of appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, based in London. It was created with the passing of the Supreme Court Act 2003, on October 15, 2003. It is no relation to the "old" Supreme Court, which was renamed in 1980 (as the result of a Royal Commission recommendation) as the High Court in anticipation of the creation of a court like the one that now bears its former name. The Supreme Court sits in Wellington. Until the Court's new $67 million home is built, beside and to expand into the historic High Court building, the court is housed in temporary facilities located in the High Court in Wellington with offices located in Old Government Buildings.

The Court of Appeal of New Zealand
This court is located in Wellington, is New Zealand�s principal intermediate appellate court. In practice, most appeals are resolved at this intermediate appellate level, rather than in the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeal has existed as a separate court since 1862 but, until 1957, it was composed of Judges of the Supreme Court (as the High Court was known then) sitting periodically in panels. In 1957 the Court of Appeal was reconstituted as a permanent court separate from the Supreme Court.

The High Court of New Zealand
This court was established in 1841 and known as the Supreme Court until 1980. The High Court has general jurisdiction and responsibility, under the Judicature Act 1908, for the administration of justice throughout New Zealand. Jurisdiction extends over both criminal and civil matters, and deals with cases at first instance or on appeal from other courts and certain tribunals. The High Court comprises the Chief Justice of New Zealand (who is head of the Judiciary) and up to 55 other Judges (which includes the Judges of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal). Associate Judges of the High Court (formerly known as Masters) supervise the Court's preliminary processes in most civil proceedings, and have jurisdiction to deal with summary judgment applications, company liquidations, bankruptcy proceedings, and some other types of civil proceedings. The High Court Judges and Masters are based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, but also travel on circuit to Whangarei, Hamilton, Rotorua, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Napier, Wanganui, Palmerston North, Nelson, Blenheim, Greymouth, Timaru, Dunedin and Invercargill. The Court also has registries in Masterton and Tauranga.

New Zealand District Courts
Since the mid 1840�s, New Zealand has had courts that deal with minor criminal offences and civil claims. At various times these courts have been known as District Local Courts and Magistrates Courts. In 1980 the Magistrates Courts were renamed as District Courts and their jurisdiction increased. There are currently 66 District Courts in New Zealand. Many of these have resident Judges, and Judges visit the remaining Courts on circuit from time to time. The District Courts Act 1947 provides for a maximum of 120 District Court Judges. The District Courts Act also sets the jurisdiction of the District Courts. In the civil jurisdiction, the District Courts can determine claims involving up to $200,000. At the lower end of the scale, some claims involving less than $7500 are now dealt with by the Disputes Tribunals. In the criminal jurisdiction, the District Courts still cover minor offences, but can now also conduct trials for some serious offences, such as rape and aggravated robbery. The Chief District Court Judge is the senior Judge of the District Courts.

The Environment Court of New Zealand (Te Kooti Taiao o Aotearoa)
This court is a special court for environmental issues within the court system of New Zealand. It mainly deals with issues arising under the Resource Management Act.

The Māori Land Court (Te Kooti Whenua Māori)
This is a special court in New Zealand that hears matters relating to Māori land. The Māori Land Court was established in 1865 as the Native Land Court. In 1954, the name was changed to the Māori Land Court. Originally the court was established to translate customary Māori land claims into legal land titles recognisable under English law. In 1993, the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act expanded the court's jurisdiction to allow it to hear cases on all matters related to Māori land. Appeals from the Māori Land Court are heard by the Māori Appellate Court, which consists of a panel of three judges of the Māori Land Court. The Māori Land Court or the Māori Appellate Court may request an opinion on a matter of law from the High Court of New Zealand; such decisions are binding on the Māori Land Court. The court has no centralised courthouse but sits in various cities and towns in New Zealand as needed. The court maintains main offices in Wellington, Whangarei, Rotorua, Hastings, Gisborne, and Christchurch. It also has less comprehensive branch offices in Auckland, Hamilton, Turangi, and Whanganui.

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission (Te Kāhui Tika Tangata in Maori)
This is the national human rights institution in New Zealand. It is a New Zealand Government agency that applies and enforces the Human Rights Act 1993, a New Zealand statute outlawing particular kinds of discrimination. The Commission was formed in 1977, and currently functions under the Human Rights Act 1993. It is an independent agency funded through the Ministry of Justice. The Office of the Race Relations Conciliator was made part of the Commission in 2001. The Commission works to educate New Zealanders, publish information, investigate human rights abuses, and resolve disputes over rights and discrimination related issues.

New Zealand Judges:

Number of judges. There are 142 members of the judiciary. The Court of Appeal is made up of seven judges. These include the Chief Justice who is the administrative head of the judiciary, the President of the Court of the Appeal and five remaining High Court Judges appointed by the Governor General as judges of the Court of Appeal. The High Court consists of 32 judges, including the Chief Justice, although the Governor General is empowered to appoint an additional judge or judges as illness or absence requires. In addition, there are six Masters of the High Court who exercise certain summary court powers. In 1993, the first female High Court judge was officially appointed to office. The District Court is limited by statute to 103 judges, including the Chief District Court Judge. As of 1993, it is operating at full staff capacity, which includes 11 women (10.7%), two Sri Lankans (1.9%) and two Maori (1.9%). The remaining judges are male New Zealand Europeans. * Appointment and qualifications. Judges are professional lawyers appointed to the bench on a permanent basis by the Governor General on the recommendation of the government. They are drawn from the ranks of the legal profession and, in the case of the High Court, from the senior bar. Members of the judiciary and the legal profession are extensively canvassed before prospective appointees are put forward for consideration. Judicial training is limited. All judges receive some on-going information about the types of sentences being imposed by other courts. Shortly after their appointment, District Court judges have an induction workshop on all aspects of their judicial function. Apart from this, both the District Court and High Court judiciary are largely reliant upon periodic judicial conferences and seminars for training and information.

New Zealand Legal System.

The New Zealand court structure is based on a three-tier hierarchy, consisting of the District Court, High Court and the Court of Appeal. There is also an infrequently exercised right, of final appeal to the Privy Council in London. Consistent with New Zealand's common law heritage, criminal trials are primarily adversarial in nature. In theory, the judge or jury is a neutral and independent adjudicator of the facts and that adjudication is limited only to consideration of the evidence presented by the parties at the trial. In practice, however, the adversarial process has been subject to significant modification. For example, an extensive police pre-trial diversion scheme is in operation. Also, the majority of cases that go to court often result in guilty pleas without scrutiny of the evidence. Those cases that do proceed to a defended hearing are often the subject of disclosure of the evidence and pre-trial conferences that define the issues in dispute. Moreover, in relation to youths under the age of 17, the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989 has instituted a radical new system which is largely non-adversarial in nature. The vast majority of young offenders are dealt with outside the formal court system by way of a relatively informal justice process involving extensive participation by the family, the community and the victim.

New Zealand Prosecutorial and Judicial Process:

Rights of the accused. If the offense is punishable by more than three months imprisonment and is ordered summarily, the accused has the right to elect trial by jury. Beyond this, the accused's ability to influence or determine the nature of the charges or form of trial is limited. * Assistance to the accused. There is no public defender system in New Zealand, although there are plans to establish one on a limited basis. There is, however, an offenders' legal aid scheme under which defendants who cannot afford to pay for private legal representation are assigned a lawyer from a roster to represent them. Lawyers on the roster work in private practice, with their fees in legal aid cases being paid by the government according to a scale fixed by regulation.

Preparatory procedures for bringing a suspect to trial. Suspects are generally brought to trial as a result of police investigation, followed by arrest and charge or by the issue of a summons or minor offense notice. In arrest cases, all initial prosecution decisions are made by the arresting officer. Those decisions are then reviewed, although only rarely modified or reversed, by a "line supervisor" and by the Police Prosecutions Section. Where the summons or minor offense notice procedure is being used, the police officer in charge of the case prepares a report for his or her line supervisor with a recommendation as to charge. The supervisor then endorses the recommendation or modifies it as he or she deems appropriate. Files containing recommendations in favor of prosecution are then sent to the Police Prosecutions Section for final decision. Police prosecutors rarely reverse a recommendation in favor of prosecution if they are satisfied that the recommended charge can be proved. In respect of charges laid on indictment, there is a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is a prima facie case justifying a trial. That preliminary hearing is held before Justices of the Peace or, in the case of a more serious charge, a District Court Judge. * Official who conducts prosecution. In summary cases, and at the preliminary hearing of charges laid on indictment, prosecutions are generally conducted by police officers who are assigned to Prosecution Sections for about two years. Some of them stay for an extended period or on a semi-permanent basis. Police prosecutors do not receive any additional legal training but they do attend in- service training courses on aspects of prosecution work, which are run by officers from the Police Legal Section. Prosecutions on indictment, whether in the District Court or the High Court, are undertaken primarily by local Crown counsel or by a member of the firm to which the Crown counsel belongs. Crown counsel also appear for the prosecution at the preliminary hearing in homicide cases, and in a few summary trials involving complex legal issues, serious offenses against police and prison officers and cases which raise or are likely to raise allegations of serious police misconduct. Crown counsel are usually senior local practitioners who are warranted to undertake prosecutions on behalf of the Crown. In the main centers, however, there are also panels of lawyers in private practice who, under delegation from Crown counsel, act on occasion for the prosecution. In most cases, Crown counsel have little contact with the case prior to the preliminary hearing or trial. The police have the responsibility to decide on the charges, to prepare the file, and to brief the witnesses. * Alternatives to trial. Occasionally, the prosecution may agree to reduce charges or to modify the summary of facts in exchange for a guilty plea, or to drop certain charges in exchange for a guilty plea on others. However, concessions of this sort tend to be minor and limited to matters which the prosecution believes will make little or no material difference to the eventual sentence. Hence significant formal plea bargaining as a means of resolving cases is not common. The main alternative to the formal criminal justice process is the police pre-trial diversion scheme, which has been in operation since 1989. This involves a decision by the Police Prosecutions Section that the offender should be diverted on particular conditions, which may include an apology to the victim, reparation, a donation to charity, community work and sometimes referral for counseling. This decision is made on the recommendation of the officer in charge of the case after charges have been made. Provided that these conditions are met, the charges are then withdrawn. The bulk of diversion cases involve shoplifting, cannabis possession, theft as a servant and other theft. However, a number of offenders prosecuted for minor assault and willful damage also receive diversion. The proportion of prosecuted cases receiving diversion varies significantly from one area to another. Apart from the formal diversion scheme, some offenders who are perceived by the police to be mentally disordered will be transferred into the mental health system prior to prosecution and detained as a voluntary or committed patient. There is no information on the extent to which this occurs. * Proportion of prosecuted cases going to trial. The substantial majority of criminal cases are resolved by way of a guilty plea. Excluding cases which are diverted by the police, over 75% of cases result in a guilty plea.

 Pre-trial incarceration conditions. The police have no general power to hold a person in custody for questioning prior to arrest and charge. Once arrested, a suspect must be brought before a court "as soon as possible." In large urban areas, the person will usually be brought before the court a day or two following arrest. The time lag may be considerably longer in rural areas (Crimes Act of 1961, Section 316(5)).

New Zealand Bail Procedure. After a defendant appears in court, the court must decide whether he or she is to be held in custody. There are some restrictions upon the grant of bail in serious violent and drug cases. There are also some minor offenses for which defendants must generally be remanded at large or on bail. Apart from this, the vast majority of defendants charged with imprisonable offenses can be remanded at large, be released on bail, or be put in custody at the discretion of the court.

Police in New Zealand

The New Zealand police are a civil force administered nationally under the command of a single Commissioner of Police and entirely independent of the military structure. For operational purposes, they are divided into six regions, each under the control of an Assistant Commissioner. Below the rank of Assistant Commissioner, there are four ranks in the chain of command - superintendent, inspector, senior sergeant and constable. Legally, the authority of a police officer is derived from the common law office of constable and is thus original rather than delegated. In accordance with that original authority, the police oath which is contained in the Police Act of 1958 simply requires the police to preserve the peace, to prevent offenses against the peace, and to discharge their duties in these respects impartially and according to law. In addition to that general authority, police officers have a number of specific powers provided by statute, and they are accountable to the Commissioner of Police and the courts for the exercise of those powers. By virtue of Regulation 7 of the Police Regulations of 1959, the Commissioner of Police is responsible to the Minister of Police for "the general administration and control of the police". The Commissioner of Police is required to ensure that all police officers "discharge their duties to the government and the public satisfactorily and efficiently". While there is some dispute about what is meant by "general administration and control", the generally accepted convention, based on the original rather than delegated authority of the office of constable, is that the Commissioner is not subject to political direction or control in relation to operational or law enforcement matters, including operational policy. The Minister is able to have some influence over law enforcement priorities and other operational policies through the budgetary process, but that influence is at a fairly general and indirect level. Aside from the police, there are several other agencies responsible for law enforcement. These are generally administered on a national basis under the control of a Minister of the Crown and include the enforcement activities of Customs, Social Welfare and Inland Revenue Departments, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the Serious Fraud Office.

New Zealand Police Training and Qualifications. Although the police prefer applicants for the job to have some formal school qualifications, they will accept applicants with no such qualifications provided that they pass the police entrance examination, which consists of a mental ability test and an English comprehension test. After passing exams and before being accepted as a full constable, recruits must undergo a full time, live-in, six month training course at the national Police College. This college is operated by the police themselves. Most of the instruction is provided by sworn police officers. Specialty components of the course are taught by relevant experts. After graduation, an 18 month probationary period begins, during which 21 in-service training modules must be passed. If the modules are passed, the probationary constable receives a permanent appointment as a fully qualified constable at the end of two years, otherwise, he or she is discharged.

Stop/apprehend a suspect. Police have limited powers to stop and search persons and vehicles, notably for drugs, offensive weapons or firearms, and to stop vehicles or set up road blocks to arrest a person who is unlawfully at large or who has committed an offense which carries a prison sentence. * Decision to arrest. When a suspect is found at the crime scene or is detected in the course of subsequent investigations, or where the police detect an offense in progress, the attending officer must decide whether to take formal action. The officer has several options. The officer can opt for an informal disposition or clearance as no offense. If the offense has not been recorded, the offender can be dealt with informally without the need to generate any formal procedure. If the offense is minor and an offender is located it can be cleared by a warning or a formal caution. There are no departmental guidelines or rules that the officer must follow in deciding whether to administer a warning. Overall warnings and formal cautions make up a little under 20% of total clearances, although there is considerable variation between individual districts. However, the most common response to an offense where a suspect is detected is prosecution. Although only 19% of recorded offenses result in prosecution, nearly half (49%) of cleared offenses do so. There are four methods of initiating a prosecution. First, the prosecution process can be initiated by arresting and charging the suspect, occurring in the majority of cases. Although police may obtain a warrant to make an arrest, this action is taken infrequently. The vast majority of arrests occur without a warrant. Police have a general power to arrest persons without a warrant if there is good cause to suspect them of having committed a breach of the peace, an offense carrying a prison sentence, or a specific offense that is non-incarcerative, but for which the power of arrest is appropriate. Instead of arrest, suspects may be summoned to appear in court on a designated date to answer the charge. Also, where an arrest is made, the arrested person can be released following arrest and issued with a summons instead. The Minor Offense Notice is the legislatively preferred procedure for offenses where the maximum penalty does not exceed a $500 fine and involves the offender being sent a notice of the offense through the mail and having the opportunity of paying a standard fine administratively as an alternative to prosecution. Its use is largely confined to traffic offenses and liquor offenses. * Search and seizure. The police may obtain a warrant to search premises where there are reasonable grounds for believing that evidence of an imprisonable offense is located. In relation to some warrants such as those obtained under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, this extends to the search of persons found on the premises. In addition, the police have more limited powers to enter premises without a warrant to search for drugs or firearms or to prevent the commission of an offense which is likely to cause serious and immediate injury to person or property. In relation to suspects in custody, the police are permitted to search their person by force, if necessary. * Confessions. Where a confession or incriminating statement has been obtained in breach of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act of 1990, there is a prima facie exclusionary remedy. Under this Act, inter alia, everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily arrested or detained, and if arrested or detained, is to be informed of the right to silence and the right to consult and instruct a lawyer without delay. At the discretion of the trial judge, any confession or incriminating evidence that has been obtained unfairly may be excluded from the official body of evidence.

Complaints against the police are generally investigated internally. An independent Police Complaints Authority also exists to intervene and deal with complaints. The Authority is able to receive complaints of police misconduct or neglect of duty and of any practices, policies or procedures affecting complainants. It also has a limited own motion power of investigation in cases of death or serious bodily harm. The Authority can investigate the complaint itself, oversee the police investigation, take no action or wait for the police report on the matter. In addition, it can review completed investigations and direct the police to reopen any investigation or to consider any proposals it might make for action on a complaint.

New Zealand Extradition and Treaties:

Extradition. The extradition of offenders to and from New Zealand is governed by two separate statutes. Extradition to and from the majority of Commonwealth nations is provided for under the United Kingdom Fugitive Offenders Act of 1881, as amended by the New Zealand Fugitive Offenders Act of 1976. Regarding non-Commonwealth countries, extradition is permitted under the Extradition Act 1965 only where a treaty has been concluded between New Zealand and the relevant country. Treaties have been concluded with Albania, Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, France, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Iraq, Italy, Liberia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, the United States, and Uruguay.

Exchange and transfer of prisoners. Under the Niue Act of 1966 and the Cook Islands Amendment Act of 1966 there are special provisions for the transfer of convicted persons to serve sentences of imprisonment in New Zealand. There are no other provisions which relate to the exchange or transfer of prisoners to or from other nations.





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