Women and Justice: Court: High Court of New Zealand

Domestic Case Law

R v. S High Court of New Zealand (2012)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Forced and early marriage, Sexual violence and rape

S was convicted for repeated violent rape within an arranged marriage over the course of 13 months. The court imposed a sentence of 13 years, six months imprisonment for the rape, with concurrent sentences for the lesser offenses, calculated as a 15 year base due to the violent nature of the acts and the vulnerability of the victim, with a downward adjustment for the respondent’s lack of prior convictions. The court declined to impose a minimum period of imprisonment, explaining that a minimum period of imprisonment is only warranted if the sentence imposed would be insufficient to hold one accountable, to denounce their conduct, or to protect others.

Coates v. Bowden High Court of New Zealand (2007)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Appellant F, the mother of three children, who was residing in New Zealand, sought a decision from a higher court concerning a previous custody decision that granted N, the father residing in Australia, custody rights. F contended that N had been physically abusive in the past toward the children, and that they were at risk of physical and psychological harm if in his custody. The High Court concluded that the children should be in New Zealand residing with their mother.

Easton v. Broadcasting Commission High Court of New Zealand (2008)

Gender discrimination

Plaintiff sought to challenge what he saw as state-sponsored and supported gender bias against men. He alleged that the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act of 1990 is discriminatory because it specifically requires that a range of broadcasts be available to provide for the interests of women while failing to include men, and that in doing so, the Act implicitly discriminates against men. The High Court dismissed the case based on the defendant agencies’ lack of standing to defend the claim, and therefore lack of jurisdiction by the High Court to hear the case.

Talleys Fisheries Ltd. v. Lewis High Court of New Zealand (2007)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

This case concerns the application of §§22(1)(b) and 21(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act of 1993 (‘the Act’). It was first heard before the Human Rights Review Tribunal. The plaintiff, Ms. Lewis, claimed that the defendant, Talleys Fisheries, had engaged in employment discrimination on the basis of gender, alleging that they offered her less favorable terms than her male counterparts who had substantially similar capabilities for substantially similar work. At the defendant’s fish processing plant, there was a noticeable divide between the roles for which male employees were hired and those for which female employees were hired. The roles of male employees included that of filleter, which was more difficult and had a higher rate of pay. Female employees were rarely hired for this role, despite being qualified for it. The Tribunal held that this disparity amounted to gender discrimination. Expert witness for the defendant testified that such gender disparity among roles in fish processing plants was standard industry custom, and, therefore, that the defendant had not engaged in gender-based employment discrimination. The Tribunal rejected both the factual finding of the existence of industry custom, as well as the conclusion that industry custom would be dispositive in this case. It held that mere existence of an industry custom of gender-based hiring practices would not justify gender-based employment discrimination. On appeal, the High Court of New Zealand affirmed.

M v. M High Court of New Zealand (2005)

Sexual violence and rape, Domestic and intimate partner violence

This case concerns the Domestic Violence Act of 1995. Appellant sent emails, faxes, and oral communications to politicians and others, claiming that the respondent, her brother, raped her when she was 11. In Family Court, the judge concluded that the allegation of rape was unfounded and that appellant’s purpose for the communications was to shame the respondent and ruin his reputation, amounting to harassment or psychological abuse. The judge issued a protection order pursuant to the Domestic Violence Act of 1995, prohibiting appellant from further communications alleging the rape. On appeal, it was contended that, 1) the family court judge wrongly found that appellant’s behavior constituted psychological abuse or harassment, and 2) that the special conditions imposed in the protection order were unduly broad, infringing upon the appellant’s freedom of expression under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (NZBORA). The High Court rejected the first ground of appeal. As to the second, the High Court read the Domestic Violence Act narrowly, saying that the legislature could not have intended to pass a bill that would conflict with the NZBORA. The High Court would modify the Family Court Judge’s protection order only to qualify that appellant is not precluded from discussing the matter with other family members, attorneys, or law enforcement, thereby preserving her rights under NZBORA. The High Court also approved a Constitutional Court holding that the right of freedom of expression extends to a woman’s right to use her own name in connection with her status as a victim of sexual abuse.