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McAllister v Solicitor-General - Appeal on contempt of court

[Full judgment: McAllister_v_SolicitorGeneral.pdf]

[2013] NZHC 2217


Hearing: 12 August 2013
Appearances: D P H Jones QC and K Venning for Appellant
M Downs and A R van Echten for Respondent
Judgment: 29 August 2013

This judgment was delivered by me on 29 August 2013 at 4 pm,
pursuant to Rule 11.5 of the High Court Rules.



[1] On 10 July 2013, Mr McAllister was selected to serve on a jury that was to hear a criminal case in the Auckland District Court. The case was to be presided over by Judge Dawson. Mr McAllister refused to take the oath or affirmation required to be taken by all persons who are selected to serve on a jury, and was stood down from the jury panel. After it subsequently became apparent that it would not be possible to select a juror to replace him, Mr McAllister relented and told the Judge he could serve on the jury after all. The Judge declined Mr McAllister’s offer, and aborted the trial.

[2] The following day the Judge held Mr McAllister to be in contempt for his acts, and sentenced him to ten days imprisonment.

[3] Mr McAllister appeals to this court against the Judge’s determination that he was in contempt of court. He also contends that the penalty the Judge imposed was manifestly excessive.


Summary: result

[91] I now summarise my conclusions and make the following orders:

1. Mr McAllister was in contempt when he refused to take the oath. His conduct was deliberate, and it interrupted the court process. It also disobeyed the Judge’s earlier direction requiring him to serve on the jury, and occurred in circumstances where Mr McAllister had no lawful excuse for doing what he did. The appeal against the Judge’s conclusion that Mr McAllister was guilty of contempt for refusing to take the oath is accordingly dismissed.

2. The appeal against the Judge’s conclusion that Mr McAllister was guilty of contempt for subsequently saying he could serve impartially on the jury is allowed.

3. The appeal against sentence is allowed, and the sentence of imprisonment is quashed. In its place Mr McAllister is fined the sum of $750.

[Full judgment: McAllister_v_SolicitorGeneral.pdf]

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