Representing yourself in a criminal case in the High Court

The information in this section of the Ministry of Justice’s website will help you understand how you can represent yourself when defending a criminal charge in the High Court or appealing a judicial decision that was made in a lower court, to the High Court.

Proceedings in the High Court can be very complicated and you may feel that you have no one to talk to about your situation. It is important to realise that you have a right to instruct a lawyer and have a lawyer represent you throughout court proceedings.  There are also many sources of free legal advice and assistance that may be available to you.  It is recommended that you make the most of this information and assistance before electing to represent yourself in High Court proceedings. 

If you cannot afford to instruct a lawyer you should check whether you are eligible for legal aid. Legal aid is government-funded legal assistance and may be available to you if you have been charged with a criminal offence and cannot afford a lawyer. You must meet a number of criteria to qualify for legal aid.  If you do not meet these criteria and are therefore not eligible for legal aid, there may still be other avenues for help, including getting free advice from your nearest Community Law Centre or Citizens Advice Bureau. Please note that court staff cannot give you legal advice.

For more information about what help might be available to you, see the Helpful Links section.

If you do elect to represent yourself, please be aware that you will need to familiarise yourself with a number of procedures and rules that ordinarily apply to lawyers. You may also be expected to undertake certain tasks within specific timeframes. To read important information about appearing in court, see Appearing in court – what you need to know.


The information in this section of the website does not cover all scenarios you may face during the court process.

The content in this section of the website is provided as information only and is not legal advice. The Ministry of Justice and the High Court of New Zealand do not accept liability for any loss or damage that may happen if you rely on this website.