On this page you will find useful information for journalists working in New Zealand’s courts and tribunals. This includes changes to criminal procedure and the role of journalists in courts, how to find out about forthcoming cases, applying to record or film in court, and searching for court information.
The media play an important part in New Zealand’s courts by reporting on their work and informing the public.
The Criminal Procedure Act, which came into force on 1 July 2013, was the biggest overhaul of criminal procedure in 50 years. It is designed to simplify and streamline court processes, reduce delay and speed up the time it takes to resolve cases.
The Act also recognises the role of the media in New Zealand’s courts, defines who the media are and allows reporters to be heard on name suppression matters.
A fact sheet explains the major changes and its impact on the media.
To find out more about New Zealand court system, visit Courts of New Zealand.
Information about covering the Family Court is available in the Media Guide and a guide issued by the Principal Family Court Judge [PDF, 253 KB].
Information about covering the Youth Court is available in the Media Guide and a guide issued by the Principal Youth Court Judge. [PDF, 150 KB]
In the interests of justice and to protect the integrity of the trial process, there may be times during a case when restrictions will apply to the information that can be made public.
Information may be suppressed by law (known as “statutory prohibitions”), or there may be an existing suppression order of the court or a lower court, or an order made in the course of delivering judgment.
It is the responsibility of anyone publishing information about a trial to be informed of and observe these prohibitions and suppression orders. If unsure, check with the appropriate court registry(external link).
The courts publish a guide on those statutory provisions that prohibit the publication of certain information. It is intended as a guide only as exceptions may apply.
If you want to film, record or take photographs in New Zealand courts, you need to seek the permission of the judge or judicial officer by filling out the appropriate application form and be sent to the appropriate District Court or High Court.
The Coroners Court has its own application form:
The form should be completed and sent to the appropriate Coronial Services Unit. (external link)
The Waitangi Tribunal has its own application form:
The form should be completed and sent to:
The “press bench” is an historical term, but now encompasses all media. Depending on the court and its size, it ranges from a single chair and table to a designated shared bench with several chairs.
Where there is a large media contingent, court staff will continue to seat the media together in another part of the courtroom, and will advise the judge.
Press bench signs have been distributed to all District and High Courts to help designate a media-only space.
Press sheets are media copies of documents where charges against defendants are outlined. Under the Ministry of Justice’s current processes, press sheets:
A disclaimer has been provided to each court to be kept with the press sheets, explaining that:
The courts are not subject to the Official Information Act. Each court has its own search rules.
Court staff cannot give you information about a criminal case where a defendant has not yet appeared in court. This is to allow the possibility of suppression being ordered by the judge at the first appearance or because automatic suppression may apply. This includes confirming whether a particular person has charges pending.
If you do not attend a hearing in person and would like information about a case, you need to make a request for information in accordance with the relevant search rules. Once the matter has been brought before the court, the only information court staff can give you without reference to the court rules is the details of the next appearance. Simple requests can be made by calling the Contact Centre on 0800 268 787.
If the Contact Centre is unable to answer your question, they will refer you to the appropriate court.
If you want to find out more about a specific case, you need to apply to search the court record.
Fill out the application form and send it to the appropriate District Court or High Court.
To find out more about reporting New Zealand’s courts and tribunals see the media guide for reporting the courts and tribunals.
This page was last updated: