2.4 District Courts

All but the most serious offending is dealt with in the District Court, from first appearance to completion.

The District Court Act 2016 established a unitary District Court which deals with both criminal and civil proceedings. The legislation reconstitutes the former District Courts as a single court, with divisions for a Family Court, a Youth Court, and a Disputes Tribunal. It is now known as the District Court of New Zealand and the 58 court locations are to be referred to as the District Court at [location].

In the criminal jurisdiction, the District Court can conduct trials for all offences except for serious offences (such as murder and manslaughter) which must be transferred to the High Court following the defendant’s first appearance in a District Court.

The District Court deals with criminal appeals from decisions made by justices of the peace and community magistrates. Appeals of District Court judges’ decisions are heard in the High Court (generally, if the case was heard by a judge-alone) or in the Court of Appeal (generally, if the case was a jury trial).

In the civil jurisdiction, the District Court can determine claims involving up to $350,000. Claims involving less than $15,000 can be dealt with by the Disputes Tribunal (see section 2.9 for more detail).

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