Courts continue to value Commission's work

Publication Date 
13 April 2017

Hon Douglas White QCThe Law Commission wrote its 1991 discussion paper on the Property Law Act over a quarter of a century ago, but judges are still referring to it.

Law Commission President Douglas White says the Commission invests significant time and effort on its publications, so their longevity is important.

This February, Associate Judge Smith in the Gisborne High Court, referred to the Commission's discussion paper on the 1952 Property Law Act in his judgment in Fraser v Butler [2017] NZHC 120. That case joins seven others so far this year (to the end of March) that refer to Law Commission publications.  

Last month Judge Downs in the Auckland High Court[1]  drew on a 2012 Commission ministerial briefing paper[2] to find that a man who posted photos of his estranged wife online had caused her serious emotional stress, and thus was guilty of causing her harm.

Since the Law Commission began tracking mentions of its work in judgments in July 2012, over 364 judgments have cited 114 different Law Commission publications. That includes 46 mentions of Law Commission work by the Supreme Court and 132 by the Court of Appeal.

Douglas White says that while the Commission writes the reports only for Parliament they are also valuable to the entire legal community. 

"Courts draw from them as they develop their thinking, academics and students around the country refer to them in their research, and people in the community read them too."


[1] Police v B [2017] NZHC 526 [24 March 2017] at [18] - [20]