Two men who sued Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern over what they claimed was an unlawfully detention during the Covid-19 lockdown have had their case dismissed by the Court of Appeal.
But the president of New Zealand's second highest court says challenges over the issue of whether the Government's coronavirus decisions have been lawful should be tested in an expedited judicial review.
The duo, who are known to each other, appealed the High Court's decision to turn away their habeas corpus claims, a 900-year-old legal procedure challenging detention without justification, at a hearing today via video link.
Both claims were brought against Ardern, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Civil Defence Director Sarah Stuart-Black.
"This whole panic has been about nothing," one of the men said today of the lockdown.
Court of Appeal president Justice Stephen Kós quizzed both men on whether they were able to exercise outside and visit a supermarket, which they had, before making an oral ruling on behalf of himself, Justice Christine French and Justice David Collins.
He said the panel of judges were satisfied "that in the circumstances they are not detained for the purposes of the Habeas Corpus Act 2001".
"This is the case which the lawfulness of the Crown's actions call to be determined not in a habeas corpus matter but more appropriately in the context of a judicial review proceeding in the High Court," Justice Kós said.
The conclusions of the Court of Appeal, the judge added, were also without prejudice in the determination of the lawfulness of the Crown's actions in any potential judicial review.
A full written decision is expected to be released next week.
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Justice Kós also dismissed the two men's bids for continued name suppression, saying the public has a right to know who sued the Prime Minister.
He extended the current suppression order until next Friday to allow the men, known only as A and B, to seek leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
During their case, A and B have made claims that modelling predicting up to 80,000 Kiwi deaths and the growing economic cost, when compared with the relatively low number of Covid-19 related deaths, was part of wider political conspiracy.
"The Prime Minister made the wrong decision ... all for her political gain," one of the men said in the High Court.
It was also alleged Ardern had conspired with Sir Stephen Tindall to ruin the economy and the United Nations Secretary-General should have been consulted.
The Court of Appeal's ruling today followed Justice Mary Peters' decisions last week, in which she said the lockdown did not amount to detention because the men could leave their home for essential personal movement.
"He is not required to seek permission to do so or inform anyone in advance, and he may do so whenever he wishes and for as long as he wishes," she said in one of two High Court rulings.
"He may also use the telephone or internet, and communicate with others as he sees fit.
"His movements are not monitored in any way, as they might be on electronically monitored bail or a sentence of home detention.
"These freedoms are inconsistent with the concept of detention."
Justice Peters also expressed that the appropriate procedure for the men to follow was an application for judicial review.