Hawke's Bay was a witness to some of New Zealand's highest-profile crimes and trials during 2014. Court reporter Sam Hurley looks at the year's top 10 cases.

An argument about disobedience, school rules, human rights and hair became one of the most discussed and dissected cases to hit the New Zealand courts in 2014.

St John's College student Lucan Battison became a household name last year after he won a High Court battle against his school on June 27.

Justice David Collins' ruling found the decision by St John's principal Paul Melloy and the college's board of trustees to suspend Lucan from school was not only unreasonable but also unlawful.


Tensions first arose when Mr Melloy, who started in his role as principal earlier in the year, attended a 1st XV game and noticed several players in the team had untidy and long hair.

After meeting the principal Lucan was warned that if he defied the school's rules he could be suspended. He refused to cut his hair, which was tied into a knot or ponytail at the back of his head.

Mr Melloy's decision to suspend Lucan was based on a "continual disobedience [that] ... was a harmful or dangerous example to other students".

The national debate began when Lucan's father, Troy Battison, made an application for a judicial review of the decision to suspend Lucan.

The rules at the time stated that students had to have hair that was short, tidy, of natural colour and had to be off the collar and out of the eyes. They also said that plaits, dreads and mohawks were not acceptable.

Public debate exploded on to television, radio and newspapers as every student, teacher, parent, academic and lawyer shared their views on the controversial and unprecedented case.

Further heat came after Hawke's Bay Today revealed Lucan had been barred from playing rugby for the 1st XV and banned from the school ball, despite a court ruling stating his school was to take no further disciplinary action pending the decision of the High Court.

Lucan was eventually allowed to return to the footy field and attend the annual ball.

Following the judgment the Battisons said they were pleased but, having wanted mediation instead, were disappointed it had gone so far.

They said Lucan had signed up to the rule and his hair, whether in a hair tie or not, was off the collar and out of the eyes but "the new principal shifted the goal posts".

"If people never questioned certain issues, we would be a very backward society today."

Mr Melloy said he was disappointed with the decision, while a St John's committee and board meeting was held on July 22 where it was decided St John's would not appeal the ruling.

The college was also ordered to pay more than $24,159 in court costs to the Battison family after losing the battle

But the story continued and in September a near-unanimous vote saw parents at St John's College support the school's "new hair rule".

After waiting for "things to settle down in the papers" Mr Melloy gave parents an opportunity to vote and "93.84 per cent were in full support for the school and the new hair rule".

The new hair rule reads: "Hair that is short, tidy and of natural colour. Short - means hair has to be 1cm off the collar at the back, not further than half way down the ear at the side and off the eyebrows at the front. Sideburns must not extend beyond the ear lobe. Tidy - means hair has to be combed and groomed. Extremes, including plaits, dreads and mohawks are not acceptable. Hair cannot be tied back in any manner."

However, Battison family lawyer Jol Bates discovered several "problems" after reading the new rule and said the school had not fulfilled the High Court judgment.

He said "it wouldn't surprise me" to find the new hair rule challenged by a student or parent in a courtroom.