Representing yourself when commencing or defending an appeal in the High Court

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If you disagree with a judicial decision made in a case you are involved in, in the District Court, you can usually ask a Senior Court to reconsider that decision. Various rights of appeal to the High Court are available to you.

It is recommended that you seek legal advice before commencing an appeal in the High Court. For more information, see the legal help section of the Ministry’s website.

What you can appeal against

There are general rights of appeal for most decisions made by the Court, including:

  • conviction;
  • sentence;
  • both conviction and sentence;
  • refusal to grant bail (or a bail condition imposed, or a refusal to vary a condition of bail);
  • pre-trial decisions in judge-alone or jury trials (e.g. a ruling that evidence is admissible);
  • suppression of name(s) or details relating to your case;
  • questions of law;
  • criminal contempt of court; and
  • costs orders.

Note: when you appeal against a judicial decision, the outcome of that appeal will not necessarily be in your favour. For example, if you appeal against your sentence, the court has the authority to increase that sentence appealed against.

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Who you can appeal to

The diagram below provides an overview of where decisions can be appealed to:

Appeal pathways diagram

Diagram key:

CM – Community Magistrate
JP – Justice of the Peace
DC Judge – District Court Judge
HC Judge – High Court Judge

The first time you appeal a decision of a court, it is called a first appeal. The level of the court that decides the first appeal is called the first appeal court. The High Court will be your first appeal court if you are appealing the decision of a District Court judge.

In some circumstances, you may also be able to appeal the decision made by the court that heard the first appeal. This is called a further appeal. For example, if you appealed the decision of a Community Magistrate to the District Court (a first appeal), you may then be able to appeal that District Court decision to the High Court (a further appeal).

Note: Every determination of a further appeal by the High Court is final.

The Supreme Court is the highest court you can appeal to.

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When you need leave to appeal a decision

Depending on the type of appeal you wish to make, you may have to seek “leave to appeal” – this means you need to get permission of the court you are appealing to before that court will consider your appeal.

The below table shows when leave must be sought:

If appeal is against...then for first appeals...and for further appeals...
conviction leave is not required leave must always be sought. Note: there is no option for further appeal from a High Court bail appeal.
sentence leave is not required
bail leave is not required
pre-trial decisions leave is required
suppression leave is not required
questions of law leave is required
criminal contempt of court leave is not required
costs orders leave is not required
S106(3) order leave is not required

For example, if your first appeal is against bail, suppression, conviction or sentence you do not need to seek leave to appeal. However, if your first appeal is against a pre-trial decision to do with admissibility of evidence, for example, you will need to seek leave to appeal.

You will always need to seek leave to appeal for a further appeal.

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How to appeal or seek leave to appeal

If you need to seek leave to appeal, you must complete a notice of application for leave to appeal. Each section of the notice of application for leave to appeal form should be completed so it includes details of:

  • you (the appellant);
  • the decision that you are appealing against;
  • the grounds for the appeal;
  • the section of the Act which allows you to appeal; and
  • whether you request an oral hearing for your leave application.

The section of Criminal Procedure Act (external link)

If you do not have to seek leave to appeal, you must complete a notice of appeal. Each section of the notice of appeal form should be completed so it includes details of:

  • you (the appellant);
  • the decision that you are appealing against;
  • the grounds of the appeal; and
  • the section of the Act which allows you to appeal.

The section of Criminal Procedure Act (external link)

Forms for appeals to a High Court judge (the notice of application for leave to appeal and the notice of appeal) are available on the Documents and forms page

 Once you have completed your form, it must be filed at the court you are appealing to. The form can be emailed or sent by post to the relevant court, or brought into the court in person. The Ministry’s website has contact details for all courts in New Zealand.

Note that there is a timeframe for filing appeals. The time is generally 20 working days. However, the court may, at any time, extend or shorten the time for filing. The Criminal Procedure Rules 2012 set out the timeframes for filing memorandums and submissions for criminal appeals.

The Criminal Procedure Rules 2012 (external link)

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If the prosecution appeals your sentence

If the prosecution files a notice of application for leave to appeal (against your sentence), you will receive a copy of the notice of application for leave to appeal.

You will then have 5 working days, after that notice is served on you, to file and serve a reply memorandum.

A reply memorandum must state:

  • whether you consent to, oppose, or do not oppose the prosecutor’s application;
  • If you oppose the application, your reasons for opposing it; and
  • If you oppose the application, whether you think the application should be heard separately from, or simultaneously with, your proposed appeal, and the reasons for that view.

Once you have completed your memorandum (there is no prescribed form for memorandums), it must be filed at the court the prosecutor’s appeal was filed in. The memorandum can be emailed or sent by post to the relevant court, or brought into the court in person. The Ministry’s website has contact details for all courts in New Zealand.

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After a notice of appeal, notice of application for leave to appeal, or reply memorandum has been filed

Once a notice of appeal or notice of application for leave to appeal has been filed, the judge’s decision and relevant documentation will be requested from the court appealed from.

When the decision and relevant documentation have been received by the appeal court, you will be sent a notice, which will inform you of the date and time that the appeal is to be heard, the court it will be heard at and whether and when any submissions on appeal are due.

Usually any application for leave to appeal will be heard at the same time as the appeal. However, in some cases, an application for leave will be heard before the appeal, and you will get a separate date for the appeal hearing itself if leave is granted.

On the appeal hearing date, the judge will consider the appeal (and the application for leave, if appropriate) and any accompanying submissions or points on appeal. The judge will then determine whether the appeal should be allowed. The decision may be given immediately or the judge may reserve his or her decision to consider the matter further.

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After the appeal hearing

You will be notified of the result of your appeal – the court will send you a copy of the appeal decision together with a Certificate of Result of Appeal.

The Court will take any other actions that are required. This may include:

  • serving orders for varying or cancelling a sentence;
  • cancelling or substituting a warning notice; or
  • scheduling a retrial or rehearing.

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