In most civil and criminal cases heard first in district courts (known until 1980 as magistrates' courts), there is the right of appeal to the High Court (formerly Supreme Court), which is usually the court of first hearing for cases where a major crime or an important civil action is involved. Family courts were established in 1980 to hear cases involving domestic issues. The highest court, the Court of Appeal, exercises an appellate jurisdiction only. Its decisions are final unless leave is granted to appeal to the Privy Council in London. There are also several special courts, such as the Arbitration Court, the Maori Land Court, and the Children and Young Persons Court. The judicial system is based on British common law. The judiciary is independent and impartial. The judicial system provides citizens with a fair and efficient judicial process.
The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence and the authorities respect these provisions in practice.