Media information

On this page you will find useful information for journalists working in New Zealand’s courts and tribunals.  This includes changes to criminal procedure and the role of journalists in courts, how to find out about forthcoming cases, applying to record or film in court, and searching for court information. 

Media in courts

The media play an important part in New Zealand’s courts by reporting on their work and informing the public. 

The Criminal Procedure Act, which came into force on 1 July 2013, was the biggest overhaul of criminal procedure in 50 years.  It is designed to simplify and streamline court processes, reduce delay and speed up the time it takes to resolve cases.   

The Act also recognises the role of the media in New Zealand’s courts, defines who the media are and allows reporters to be heard on name suppression matters.

A fact sheet explains the major changes and its impact on the media.

Criminal procedure at a glance [PDF, 312 KB]

To find out more about New Zealand court system, visit Courts of New Zealand.

 Courts of New Zealand website (external link)

In-court media coverage

If you want to film, record or take photographs in New Zealand courts, you need to seek the permission of the judge or judicial officer by filling out the appropriate application form and be sent to the appropriate District Court or High Court.

Application for in-court media coverage [PDF, 643 KB]

Waitangi Tribunal

The Waitangi Tribunal has its own application form:

Waitangi Tribunal media application form [PDF, 355 KB]

The form should be completed and sent to:

Email: WT.Registrar@justice.govt.nz

Press benches

The “press bench” is an historical term, but now encompasses all media.  Depending on the court and its size, it ranges from a single chair and table to a designated shared bench with several chairs.  

Where there is a large media contingent, court staff will continue to seat the media together in another part of the courtroom, and will advise the judge.

Press bench signs have been distributed to all District and High Courts to help designate a media-only space.

Press sheets

Press sheets are media copies of documents where charges against defendants are outlined.  Under the Ministry of Justice’s current processes, press sheets:

  • are not destroyed at the end of the day of first appearance
  • are distributed to the press bench or are made available to media on request
  • are stored for one month
  • are destroyed after one month from date of first appearance
  • are kept in a designated space known to both court staff and media.

A disclaimer has been provided to each court to be kept with the press sheets, explaining that:

  • press sheets are provided to media as a courtesy and are the property of the court
  • press sheets must not leave the courthouse
  • press sheets are available on the day of first appearance and are not reprinted if lost or damaged
  • charges may have been amended or withdrawn since the date of first appearance and are not updated on the press sheet, there is a risk that the information on the press sheet may not be accurate after first appearance
  • name and or detail suppression may have been granted, therefore you must check with court staff before publishing.

Getting information about cases

The courts are not subject to the Official Information Act.  Each court has its own search rules.

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

If you do not attend a hearing in person and would like information about a case, you need to make a request for information in accordance with the relevant search rules.  Once the matter has been brought before the court, the only information court staff can give you without reference to the court rules is the details of the next appearance.   Simple requests can be made by calling the Contact Centre on 0800 268 787.   

If the Contact Centre is unable to answer your question, they will refer you to the appropriate court.

If you want to find out more about a specific case, you need to apply to search the court record. 

Fill out the application form and send it to the appropriate District Court or High Court.

Application for access to court documents form [PDF, 627 KB]

Fees are often charged for access to court documents

Media guide

To find out more about reporting New Zealand’s courts and tribunals see the media guide for reporting the courts and tribunals.

Media guide for reporting the courts and tribunals

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