Leading Criminal trials

Summary of a selection of leading criminal cases where Dr Stevens has appeared as Counsel



Leading civil cases

Summary of leading civil cases where Dr Stevens has appeared as Counsel


Leading Appellate cases

Summary of leading appellate cases where Dr Stevens has appeared as Counsel



Leading Criminal trials

Summary of a selection of leading criminal cases where Dr Stevens has appeared as Counsel

Leading Criminal trials

Summary of a selection of leading criminal cases where Dr Stevens has appeared as Counsel

Police v D (Invercargill District Court, 1987)

Mr D was discharged at the conclusion of the preliminary hearing on a charge of murder. The case was gang related and took place in a climate of considerable tension in Invercargill.

R v H (Wellington High Court, 1989)

Ms H was charged with manslaughter. She was acquitted after establishing that the death was accidental. 

R v H (Nelson High Court, 1991)

Mr H was one of four men charged with murder. He was the only one of the accused to be completely acquitted

R v B (1991) 7 CRNZ 515

Mr B was charged in the Timaru High Court with murder.

The importance of the case is that it established the principle that the accused in a criminal trial is entitled to disclosure of the criminal convictions of Crown witnesses. The case also dealt with the issue of disclosure of criminal convictions of the deceased.

R v McF [1992] 1 NZLR 495; (1991) 7 CRNZ 358

Mr McF sought the disclosure, in a cocaine trial, of the precise location of listening devices. The issue involved the balancing of public interest immunity with the administration of justice.

R v Name suppressed (Wellington District Court, 1994)

The accused was a pharmacist charged with 42 counts of fraud upon the health subsidy scheme. After a trial running for several weeks the jury acquitted him on all charges. 

R v Name suppressed (Wanganui District Court, 1996)

A medical practitioner faced charges of fraud in relation to multiple alleged false claims on the health subsidy scheme. Half of the claims were removed from the case following a pretrial ruling that a search of the doctor’s surgery was unlawful and unreasonable. The doctor was acquitted by the jury on all charges relating to the balance of the claims following a trial running for several weeks. 

R v M (Wellington High Court, 1997)

Ms M was charged with the murder of her child. She was convicted of infanticide. The case attracted considerable publicity through out the country as it focused on issues of child neglect and maltreatment and the inadequate response of social agencies. A pretrial ruling, that impacted significantly on the outcome of the case, held that the court’s inherent jurisdiction could not be availed of to allow the use of a pre-recorded videotape as evidence in chief of a child who was not a direct complainant: R v M (1997) 15 CRNZ 267. 

R v X (Blenheim High Court, 1997)

Mr X was a pharmacist who was charged with drug offences after he supplied a homebaker with 60,000 panadeine tablets. A jury acquitted him on all charges.

The case drew attention to the inadequate resources provided by the health sector for the methadone treatment program for drug addicts, and the dilemmas faced by pharmacists in small towns in dealing with drug addicts.

R v S (Wellington District Court, 1998)

Dr S faced charges of fraud in relation to alleged false claims on the health subsidy scheme. The jury acquitted Dr S on all charges, following a trial that ran for several weeks.

R v H (Wellington High Court, 2000)

Mr H was a male model who was charged with the murder of Terri King at Mt Holdsworth in the Tararua Ranges.

The case involved fashion models, Ecstasy, international drug dealing, the Wellington nightclub scene and former South African special-forces police officers turned international criminals. The Dutch and Russian mafia also featured.

At the end of an eight-week, high profile and complex trial Mr H was acquitted.

R v H (Wellington High Court, 2000)

Mr H was acquitted on a rape charge where it was alleged he had drugged the complainant in a bar by adding a drug to her glass of champagne, for the purpose of having sexual intercourse with her. This was a high profile case attracting much media attention and public debate.

Police v Name suppressed (Upper Hutt District Court, 2002)

The defence successfully applied to have a prosecution for an alleged sex offence stayed on the basis of the state of health of the defendant.

R v T (Wellington High Court, 2002) 

Mr T was a prominent rugby league player charged with sexual violation and indecent assault, which were alleged to have occurred 10 years previously when he was 15 years old. He was acquitted on all charges. The case gave rise to public debate, which focused on issues relating to historical allegations of sexual offending and the issues that arise where an allegation is uncorroborated. 

R v D (Wellington District Court, 2003)

This was one of the first prosecutions in New Zealand alleging possession of the drug GHB (aka Fantasy) for supply.

Mr D was found in possession of one litre of Fantasy. The jury acquitted him after he established that he had the fantasy for his own use.

R v Lesley Martin (Wanganui High Court, 2004)

Lesley Martin, the prominent voluntary euthanasia law reform campaigner, was charged with two counts of attempted murder of her mother, after she published her book To Die Like A Dog in which she described the terminal illness and death of her mother.

The case attracted substantial national and international attention. It focused on failings in the health system and in particular on shortcomings in the palliative care provided by the health system to Ms Martin’s mother, Joy Martin. The case was conducted against a background of debate about voluntary euthanasia and law reform.

Ms Martin was acquitted on one of the two charges of attempted murder, but was convicted on the other. She was sentenced to imprisonment. The Parole Board declined to grant her home detention because she would not concede that her actions were wrong; indeed she considered them to be morally justifiable and driven by the highest humanitarian objectives. The Court of Appeal subsequently dismissed her appeal and the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal.

Having served her term of imprisonment Ms Martin continues with her campaign seeking voluntary euthanasia law reform.

Republic of Vanuatu v Q (Port Vila, Vanuatu, 2005)

Mr Q was charged with possession of drugs on a luxury yacht in Port Vila, Vanuatu and was charged also with several sex offences. The drug prosecution failed when the court excluded the evidence of the finding of the drugs because the search, in which they were found, was carried out, by the police, in breach of fundamental rights Mr Q enjoyed under the Constitution of Vanuatu. The sex charges were subsequently withdrawn.

Police v D (Wellington District Court, 2005)

Mr D faced two charges of criminal nuisance. He was HIV positive and did not disclose this to a sexual partner when having unprotected oral sex with her and when having protected sexual intercourse with her.

This case was the first in which a court in New Zealand, or in any comparable jurisdiction, had to decide whether a failure to disclose HIV positive status when a condom was used would amount to criminal nuisance. As a result the case attracted both national and international attention.

Both charges were dismissed. The court decided that there was no legal duty to disclose HIV positive status when having sexual intercourse whilst using a condom and no duty to disclose when having oral sex without a condom.

R v Name suppressed (Wellington District Court, 2006)

The two defendants were charged with fraud in relation to the operation of gaming machines. They were acquitted part way through their trial when the Crown case collapsed. Cross-examination of Crown witnesses revealed that the prosecution was based on a flawed investigation. The prosecution theory could not withstand critical analysis.

G v The District Court at Blenheim and the Attorney-General (Blenheim High Court, 2006)

Mr G was charged with importing ecstasy into New Zealand. He applied to the District Court at Blenheim for a stay of the prosecution on the basis that a delay of 22 months from his arrest to the proposed trial date breached his right under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act to be tried without undue delay. The District Court declined to stay the prosecution. Mr G sought in the High Court a review of the District Court decision. He succeeded. The High Court held that the District Court was wrong to have refused the stay. The High Court stayed the prosecution.

R v G (Wellington District Court, 2006)

Mr G was charged with raping a work colleague, after both of them had been drinking alcohol. He was acquitted.

R v Name suppressed (Wellington District Court, 2007)

The defendant faced an historical allegation of indecent assault. Eight years after the alleged offence a complaint was for the first time made to the police. The police investigated it and interviewed the defendant. They decided to take no further action, but did not tell the defendant of this decision. Sixteen years later they reviewed the position, after the complainant had inquired about progress in investigating her complaint. The defendant was then charged – 23 years after the alleged incident. The prosecution was stayed by the court, on a defence application, as an abuse of process.

R v S (Nelson District Court, 2008)

Mr S had been convicted of cultivating cannabis on his farm. The Crown applied for the forfeiture of the farm. The forfeiture application was unsuccessful, although S was ordered to pay a pecuniary penalty.

Department of Labour v K (Wellington District Court, 2009)

Mr K was charged under occupational safety legislation after a young man who was said to be working for him as a contractor fell from a roof and died. Each of the charges was dismissed.

R v Y (Wellington High Court, 2010)

Mr Y was alleged to have, whilst intoxicated, kicked an elderly man from his bicycle, causing his death. He faced a charge of manslaughter. The issues were whether Mr Y had in fact kicked the man from the bike and whether a brain hemorrhage – which was the cause of death – was the result of trauma or natural causes. Mr Y was acquitted.

R v G (Wellington High Court, 2010)

Mr G and another man were charged with murder after a transvestite was kicked and punched to death. Each man blamed the other. Each was acquitted of murder, but convicted – by a majority verdict – of manslaughter.

R v Name suppressed (Wellington District Court, 2011)

The defendant was charged with 10 counts of raping or in other ways sexually violating his wife. He was acquitted on all counts.

R v K (Wellington High Court, 2013)

Ms K was charged with murdering her partner. She was acquitted of both murder and manslaughter having successfully advanced a defense of battered woman syndrome.


Leading Appellate Cases

Summary of leading appellate cases where Dr Stevens has appeared as counsel

Leading Appellate Cases

Summary of leading appellate cases where Dr Stevens has appeared as counsel

R v C [1983] NZLR 748 (CA); (1983) 1 CRNZ 116

This case established that no adverse inference is to be drawn from the exercise by a suspect of the right to silence when interviewed by a law enforcement officer.

R v C [1986] 2 NZLR 93 (CA); (1984) 1 CRNZ 406

The Court of Appeal made a statement of the principles governing the exercise by a trial judge of the discretion to exclude unlawfully obtained evidence.

The Court also ruled that a trial judge is not to question a juror about discussions that had taken place amongst jurors.

[Mr C, an Auckland University student, had, in the one prosecution, been convicted twice by the Auckland High Court of possession of heroin for supply.  Following each conviction the Court of Appeal quashed the conviction and ordered a new trial. On his third trial he was acquitted.] 

Commissioner of Police v Ombudsman [1988] 1 NZLR 385 (CA); also reported as Pearce v Thompson  (1988) 3 CRNZ 268.

The judgments of the Court of Appeal (five member court) in this case established the present system, based upon the Official Information Act 1982, of disclosure by the prosecution in criminal cases.

The case brought to an end the unsatisfactory position that had previously applied in a summary hearing of a defended criminal case in the District Court, where the defendant had no advance disclosure of the evidence to be adduced against him. It also introduced the regime under which the Crown, in a trial on indictment, makes disclosure of material from the police file including statements made by witnesses to the police.

Mr Pearce had made application to the police, in relation to charges brought against him in the Upper Hutt District Court, for access to the briefs of evidence of the witnesses to give evidence against him. The request, which was made under the Official Information Act, was refused. The Ombudsman found in favour of Mr Pearce but the High Court took the contrary view and ruled that the briefs did not have to be disclosed (Commissioner of Police v Ombudsman [1985] 1 NZLR 578). A five judge Court of Appeal decided that there is a general obligation on the prosecution, in summary proceedings, to disclose, on request, briefs of evidence, witness statements and police job sheets. The principles enunciated in the case applied equally to witness statements and job sheets in trials on indictment. 

R v N-B [1990] 1 NZLR 559 (CA); (1990) 5 CRNZ 496

A statement of principle was made by the Court of Appeal of the need to protect the confidentiality of jury deliberations.

R v McF  [1992] 3 NZLR 424 (CA); 1992) 8 CRNZ 266

Following the reclassification of cocaine as a Class A controlled drug the Court of Appeal in this case reviewed the appropriate sentencing range for dealing offences in respect of that drug.

R v L (1993) 10 CRNZ 350 (CA) 

Two important principles were established by this case.  First, that a search is prima facie unreasonable, for the purposes of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, where there is an absence of power to undertake it; and secondly, that a search without warrant under section18 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 will be unreasonable, although the power to conduct such a search exists, when, in the circumstances, a search warrant could have been obtained.

R v S [1994] 3 NZLR 450 (CA);  (1994) 12 CRNZ 12

The Court of Appeal reviewed section 198 of the Summary Proceedings Act 1957 and set out in detail the principles applicable to search warrant applications, the principles applicable to the form and content of search warrants and the principles applicable to the execution of search warrants.

This case has been used as the basis for many attacks upon the validity of search warrants.

R v H [1995] 1 NZLR 6 (CA);  (1994) 12 CRNZ 119

A rape conviction was over-turned as the verdict was unsafe when the jury had deliberated into the early hours of the morning.

A further ground of appeal advanced was that the jury deliberation room attached to Courtroom number 2 of the (then new) High Court building at Wellington was too small.  Expert evidence before the Court of Appeal established that the overall dimensions of the room were significantly below the recommended space requirements for such a meeting room. It was argued that the inadequate space would have contributed to jurors feeling cramped and claustrophobic, leading to potential impairment of decision-making. The Court concluded that the jury room was “inadequate in size” and this may “have contributed to the jury’s difficulties”. Following this decision building alterations were undertaken to increase the size of the room.

R v S (1995) 13 CRNZ 222 (CA)

Mr S was a prominent member of a well-known motorcycle group in Timaru. He was charged with serious drug offending. The local newspaper had, over a period of time, published much prejudicial material about the activities of the motorcycle group. The defence applied to the trial judge for permission to examine each prospective juror for cause during the jury selection, on the basis that publicity relating to the accused, his associates and the offences was potentially sufficient to destroy prospective jurors’ impartiality. The application was disallowed. An appeal was unsuccessful. The judgment of the Court of Appeal (five member court) held, however, that in New Zealand in “wholly exceptional cases” a judge may allow jurors whose names have been called to be cross examined before taking their seats.

R v H [1997] 3 NZLR 529 (CA); (1997) 15 CRNZ 158

Mr H appealed conviction for a serious violent offence on the grounds that the trial judge had erred in allowing a key witness for the prosecution to give evidence with out disclosing his name and address. The Court of Appeal (five member court) allowed, by a majority, the appeal on the basis that the common law did not allow witness anonymity.  Shortly afterwards Parliament reacted to the decision by enacting legislation allowing a witness anonymity in certain circumstances.

Solicitor-General v M [20011 NZLR 533; (1998-2000) 17 CRNZ 671

The Court of Appeal reviewed the power vested in a court under the Costs in Criminal Cases Act 1967 to award costs to a successful defendant in a criminal case.

R v McM (2001-02) 19 CRNZ 669

The Court of Appeal held that a person executing a search warrant issued on the basis of inadequate or misleading information will not normally be permitted to justify the search as reasonable by pointing to other material available to the applicant for the search warrant that was not placed before the judicial officer who issued the warrant.

R v S [2005] 1 NZLR 767; (2004) 21 CRNZ 345

The Court of Appeal considered issues relating to severance of counts in an indictment and issues concerning the conduct by police of interviews of suspects, as well as the admissibility into evidence of those interviews.

R v M [2008] NZCA 290

The Court of Appeal found that the Crown prosecutor in a rape trial had misconducted himself by statements he made in his closing address to the jury. A re-­-trial was ordered.

R v McM et al [2008] NZCA 431

The appeal concerned two important issues. First, the circumstances in which an accused's out-­- of-­-court statements intended to be used as evidence in a trial can be edited at the behest of a co-­-accused in the trial. The second issue related to the effectiveness of judicial directions to juries.

R v MacD (2008) 24 CRNZ 785

The Court of Appeal reviewed the law concerning the direction a trial judge should give to the jury concerning the approach the jury takes to the evidence of an accused person.

T v The Queen [2010] NZCA 69

The Court of Appeal considered the nature of the direction that was required in the judge's summing up to the jury to overcome the prejudice that could be expected to arise in a case involving homosexual sex.

M v The Queen [2010] NZCA 123

The Court of Appeal considered whether evidence should have been admitted at the appellant's trial for rape about his HIV positive status and decided the directions the trial judge should give to the jury about the use to which such evidence should be put. A further issue raised by the appellant concerned the nature and extent of jury directions a judge should give to prevent jurors from undertaking internet inquiries.

A v The Queen [2011] NZSC 130; [2012] 1 NZLR 534

The Supreme Court considered whether the interpreting assistance afforded Mr A at his trial for rape met the standard required by s. 24 (g) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. The Supreme Court described the standards to be observed in the future when evidence is interpreted for an accused in a criminal trial.

H v The Queen [2012] NZCA 301

The Court of Appeal ordered a re-­-trial on the basis that Mr H's trial counsel made an error in adducing at trial evidence of H's sexual orientation in circumstances where the evidence had little or no probative value and carried substantial prejudice. Mr H also argued in the appeal that the trial judge failed to give adequate directions to the jury in order to counter the prejudice that would have flowed from evidence having been given about Mr H's sexual orientation.


Leading Civil Cases

Summary of leading civil cases where Dr Stevens has appeared as Counsel

Leading Civil Cases

Summary of leading civil cases where Dr Stevens has appeared as Counsel

Attorney-General for Fiji v RJ [1989] 2 NZLR 69

RJ, for whom Dr Stevens appeared as counsel in the High Court, had attempted to evict the Fijian Embassy from a building he owned in Wellington following the 1987 military coup d’etat in Fiji. The Attorney-General for Fiji sought an injunction to prevent the eviction. RJ argued that the plaintiff had no locus standi as he was a member of a revolutionary regime unrecognized by the New Zealand Government. The case was determined on principles of municipal and international law relating to the recognition of governments taking power through revolutionary means. The judgment of the High Court applied principles that were evolving at that time.

Cunningham & General Motors v Wellington, Taranaki, Nelson and Marlborough Coach and Motor Body Workers Union, et al (Wellington High Court, 1989)

The case was a sequel to a picket by members of the Union outside the premises of General Motors at Trentham. The plaintiffs sued the Union and two of its officials, alleging malicious prosecution and defamation. Dr Stevens was counsel for both the Union and the general secretary. The trial ran for several weeks and attracted considerable media interest. The case dealt with the rights of Union members to picket and the conduct of pickets as well as various industrial relations issues. Several prominent trade unionists at a national level gave evidence for the defence. The plaintiffs’ claims failed in their entirety.

W v Attorney-General (Palmerston North High Court, 1998)

Mr W was arrested and charged with a drug dealing offence, following a police undercover drug operation. His arrest followed the alteration by an undercover police officer and his supervisor of a statement that contained a description of a drug offender. The description was markedly altered and as a result matched Mr W.

Mr W was discharged under section 347 of the Crimes Act. He then brought a claim for malicious prosecution against the Attorney-General. Dr Stevens appeared as lead counsel for Mr W at the civil trial that was conducted before a jury. The civil trial ran for several weeks and attracted considerable nation wide media coverage. It focused on the operation of the police undercover drug program and on issues such as drug use by undercover agents and the culture within the undercover drug program. Former undercover agents gave evidence for the plaintiff as expert witnesses and claimed that undercover agents regularly wrote statements when under the influence of drugs and that mistakes could not be admitted. Their evidence was that the number of persons convicted was the basis upon which the success of an operation was judged, and that nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of obtaining the maximum number of convictions.

The jury found that Mr W was innocent, that the police officers had improperly and dishonestly altered the description of the offender in the statement (and by implication lied on oath about it) and that one or both of them had known that Mr W was innocent. They did not find, however, that there was any malice, although the trial judge decided that there was.

Subsequently the Court of Appeal ordered a retrial, but the case was settled before the retrial took place.