Non-accredited and international media need permission from a judge to cover proceedings in the District Court. Find out what accredited means, and how to apply for permission from the District Court.
On this page:
What "accredited" means
Accredited media are the only people permitted to:
- sit at the press bench in court
- take notes in court
- transmit reports from within court.
They are expected to have a good working knowledge of court procedures and relevant law, and their reports must provide a fair and accurate report of the proceedings.
Accredited media have standing in court, which means they:
- may be heard on suppression matters (under the Criminal Procedure Act 2011)
- have a right to remain in court even when a court is closed to the public (except in exceptional circumstances).
On a case-by-case basis, with the permission of the judge, media may capture sound and images of proceedings or parts of proceedings. Permission to do this is requested using the form on this page:
Filming, recording, or taking photographs in court
Non-accredited and overseas media who want to cover District Court proceedings
Non-accredited and overseas media need the judge’s permission to cover District Court proceedings.
- freelance and contract journalists
- people representing news outlets that are not subject to a code of ethics and the complaints procedure of the Broadcasting Standards Authority or the Press Council (now the New Zealand Media Council).
For more detail about the definition of "member of the media" see the In-court media coverage guidelines 2016 (link below).
Permission may be granted
A judge can grant permission for non-accredited and overseas media to report from the District Court and receive the same access as accredited media. This permission is likely to be conditional on these media agreeing that they and their news outlets (online, print, or broadcast) will comply with New Zealand law – including:
- the laws of contempt and sub judice
- any orders of the presiding judge
- any statutory prohibitions
- the provisions of the In-court media coverage guidelines, and
- any other rules or orders pertaining to the orderly administration of justice.
In-court media coverage guidelines 2016 [PDF, 413 KB]
Note: If the press bench is fully occupied, media must get the judge’s permission before taking notes or transmitting material from the public galleries. The rules around electronic communication from inside court, including on mobile phones, can be found in the In-court media coverage guidelines (link above).
How to apply for permission to report from the District Court
To apply for permission to report from the District Court, non-accredited journalists must:
- make themselves known to the court where a hearing is scheduled, via the court registrar
- do this as early as possible before a hearing (see Advance notice periods below)
- provide suitable identification (e.g. business card or letter from their organisation) as well as personal identification (e.g. driver's licence or passport).
The registrar may also ask for contact details and after-hours contacts.
Contract or freelance journalists will also need a written reference from the editor of the news outlet they are representing.
If you are applying for permission in writing or by email, you can find District Court postal and email addresses on the Find us(external link) page of the Ministry of Justice website.
Advance notice periods
Advance notice periods differ in the District Court compared to the senior courts (High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court) – particularly in relation to first appearances. This is because all defendants make their first appearance in the District Court, regardless of the seriousness of the charges.
This addendum has the details of the notice periods required by the District Court:
Addendum to the in-court media coverage guidelines 2016 [PDF, 107 KB]
Applying for permission to film, photograph, or sound-record in court
If you’re also wanting to film, take photographs, or make sound recordings in court, you must apply for permission in writing. For the application form to use, go to this page:
Filming, recording, or taking photographs in court
How the decision will be notified
Judicial decisions around permission to cover court, or to film, take photographs, or sound-record in court, may be notified either:
- in advance by the registrar, or
- by the judge directly, once court sits.
Restrictions on reporting
The Family Court and Youth Court have specific reporting restrictions that are designed to protect children and vulnerable participants. Extra care is required in covering these proceedings.
Information about covering the Family Court and Youth Court can be found in the following:
Extra reporting restrictions also apply to certain proceedings in the adult criminal jurisdiction of the District Court. These include:
- certain matters in bail application hearings that might affect fair trial rights
- restrictions relating to the identification of complainants and witnesses in sexual violence and family violence cases.
You can find more information in these documents:
Permission may be revoked
A judge may revoke permission to cover District Court proceedings at any time if:
- the applicant, or someone acting on behalf of the applicant, breaches the In-court media coverage guidelines 2016, or any condition of the permission to cover the trial
- witnesses or parties are being subjected to unreasonable media pressure outside the courtroom
- the judge determines that the rights of any participant in the trial – or the defendant's right to a fair trial – may or will be prejudiced if coverage continues, or
- coverage of the trial is disrupting the proceedings.
Covering a hearing remotely or retrospectively
If you want to cover a hearing remotely or retrospectively, you can apply to the court registrar where the case was heard for permission to see the court file. This file includes:
- the charges
- any decision of the judge – such as decisions relating to suppressed material, bail, verdict, or sentencing
- court transcripts.
To access court documents, follow the process on this page:
Accessing court documents
If you want to use images or sound recorded by other approved media, and you weren’t included on their original application form, a new application is required.
See the page Filming, recording, or taking photographs in court for how to do this.1 The guide does not cover every situation and does not constitute legal advice. News media are advised to seek independent legal advice whenever in doubt.