Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

LM v. The Queen Supreme Court of New Zealand (2014)

Sexual violence and rape

Section 144 of the Crimes Act 1961 “provides for the prosecution of New Zealanders for conduct which, if it had occurred in New Zealand, would be contrary to specified provisions of the Crimes Act involving sexual offending against children and young people.” The appellant, a New Zealander, was found guilty of a sex crime against a child. The crime was committed in Russia and the other offender in the case was a Russian man. At issue on appeal was whether the aforementioned law allowed for “the prosecution of a New Zealander (being LM) on the basis of party liability for “offending” where the principal “offender” is not a New Zealander.” The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the appellant was in fact liable as a principal and noting that a miscarriage of justice had not occurred. Furthermore, the Court stated that a “wrong decision” regarding party liability “does not warrant the allowing of the appeal.”

Susan Couch v. Attorney-General (2008)

Gender-based violence in general

The plaintiff, Ms. Couch, was seriously injured when William Bell robbed her place of employment. William Bell was a parolee under the supervision of the Probation Service. Ms. Couch claimed that the Probation Service failed to exercise reasonable care in the supervision of William Bell, leading to her injuries. The Court of Appeals dismissed her claim on the basis that the Probation Service owed no duty of care to her. The Supreme Court unanimously reversed, holding that the Probation Service owes a duty of care to victims of criminal assault by parolees under its supervision. In doing so, the Supreme Court expressly rejected a so-called “sufficient proximity” rule, stating that the Probation Service owes a duty of care only to plaintiffs who are members of an identifiable class that is at particular risk of harm by parolees. The Supreme Court also held that the Probation Service is not vicariously liable for the actions of its parolees.

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.

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.