6.2 Searches and search rules

Access to court information is governed by various legislative provisions, as well as orders and directions set down by the court, such as (but not limited to):

  • Senior Courts (Access to Court Documents) Rules 2017
  • District Court (Access to Court Documents) Rules 2017
  • District Courts and High Court (Criminal Fees) Regulations 2013
  • Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004
  • District Courts Fees Regulations 2009
  • Family Court Rules 2002
  • Family Court Act 1980

The Official Information Act 1982 does not apply to court records.

Statutory provisions and suppression orders (or automatic suppression) may restrict the information that may be published. A judge may place restrictions on how you use or publish information you have access to. They can also restrict access to certain documents such as victim impact statements and psychiatric reports.

Judges' personal notes do not form part of the court record and are not available for search or inspection.

The Criminal Procedure Rules 2012 govern the access to court documents in the criminal jurisdiction of the District Court and the High Court (see section 6). The Criminal Procedure Rules are published on legislation.govt.nz

In general, and subject to any specific exceptions in the rules, court orders or statutory restrictions, everyone has a right to access:

  • the permanent court record
  • any published list providing notice of a hearing
  • any judgment, order, or minute of the court given in a criminal proceeding, including any record of the reasons given by a judicial officer
  • any judicial officer's sentencing notes
  • Please see section 6.3 regarding fees relating to searching or accessing court documents.

Under the Criminal Procedure Rules, ‘document' includes any written material in the custody or control of the court that relates to a criminal proceeding, whether or not kept on a court file and includes documentary exhibits, video recordings, records in electronic form, films, photographs and images in electronic form. It excludes notes made by or for a judge for his or her personal use and any material that relates to the administration of the court.

Court staff are unable to give you any information about a criminal case where the defendant has not yet appeared in court. This is to allow for the possibility of suppression being ordered by the judge at the first appearance or because automatic suppression may apply. This includes confirming whether or not a particular person has charges pending.

If you do not attend a hearing in person and would like information relating to the proceedings, you need to make a request for information in accordance with the relevant search rules. Once a matter has been brought before the court, the only information that court staff can give you without reference to the search rules is the date set down for the next appearance.

For civil proceedings, subpart 2 of Part 3 of the High Court Rules governs access to court documents in the civil jurisdiction of the High Court.

All search requests should be directed to the registrar. Because the procedure varies in different jurisdictions we advise you to contact the court office for advice about how to make an application. 

Application for access to court documents [PDF, 248 KB]

Either the judge or the registrar will make the decision on the search application. The judge or the registrar may grant the application, request further information or pass to counsel for comment before a final decision is made.

If you are granted permission to search a court file, you can expect to be supervised by a court staff member.

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