Criminal justice and victims

This regulatory area oversees justice system mechanisms for dealing with crimes. The State holds a critical coercive power in the prosecution and punishment of crimes. Consequently, the definition of crime and the exercising of that power is closely regulated. The number of systems in place to some extent reflects the increasing globalisation of criminal processes and changing technology.

At the same time, the justice system’s treatment of crimes and offenders needs to be mindful of the needs of victims, and this area includes the legislation that ensures appropriate provision is made for victims of crime. It also includes legislation providing for the justice system response to family violence and sexual violence.

The Ministry of Justice has a major programme of work underway reviewing criminal justice - Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata: Safe and Effective Justice. You can find more information on this programme at:

Hāpaitia te Oranga Tangata: Safe and Effective Justice(external link)

The systems in this area are

Investigations

This system encompasses the tools available to the State to investigate and prosecute crimes. It provides the framework for the State to exercise its coercive powers, and the key safeguards and constraints on that power. It also provides public accountability for the State’s exercise of that power by making the rules regarding the use of coercive tools clear, transparent and easy to understand.

Adjudication

This system governs restrictions imposed on defendants facing criminal charges, including release on bail or remand in custody. It aims to ensure that defendants appear in court when required and don’t interfere with witnesses and/or evidence. It also prevents offending while on bail, while upholding the defendant’s presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Sentencing

This system provides the framework for decisions about sentences imposed on people convicted of criminal offences. It aims to hold offenders accountable for their actions, provide for the interests of victims and, in a proportionate way, denounce the offender’s conduct, deter offending and protect the community.

Managing offenders

This system provides the framework for making decisions about when prisoners should be released from prison and their management following release. The paramount consideration in every decision is the safety of the community.

This system also includes provision for people returning to Aotearoa New Zealand following offending in an overseas jurisdiction. It seeks to support their reintegration into the community and prevent further offending.

Reducing the effects of convictions

This system provides the tools to ensure convictions don’t have a disproportionate impact on individuals. The clean slate scheme allows people convicted of less serious offending to have their convictions concealed in most cases.

The Criminal Records (Expungement of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Act 2018 allows people convicted of offences repealed by the Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986, or their partners and family members where the person is deceased, to apply to have their convictions expunged.

International criminal law

This system provides the framework for crimes that offend fundamental values of the international community, such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. It aims to ensure that Aotearoa New Zealand meets its obligations as a responsible member of the international community by recognising commonly accepted international norms, values and laws.

Victims

This system encompasses the legislation that makes provision for victims of crime. Its objectives are to ensure the criminal justice system makes appropriate provision for victims of crime in order to:

  • improve the experience of victims in the criminal justice system
  • recognise and give effect to the needs and rights of victims of crime
  • enhance the safety of victims and the wider community.

Family violence and sexual violence

This system encompasses the whole-of-government system response to family violence and sexual violence. The issues within this system cut across a number of other systems administered by the Ministry. We’ve decided to give this system visibility by treating it as a subject-specific, cross-cutting system to make it easier to maintain a sustained and coherent approach to reform and to monitor progress.

The objectives of this system are to:

  • recognise that family violence and sexual violence in all its forms is unacceptable
  • promote early intervention to prevent perpetrators from inflicting family violence and sexual violence
  • keep victims, including children, safe from family violence and sexual violence
  • support victims to seek justice
  • hold perpetrators to account.

While we’ve placed this system in the criminal justice and victims regulatory area, family violence also intersects with the family regulatory area. It also provides for a civil response to family violence to protect victims and reduce reoffending (for example, protection orders under the Family Violence Act 2018).

The Ministry of Justice is part of a cross-government work programme on family violence and sexual violence that aims to ensure victims are safer, improve services, and change long-standing behaviours and attitudes. Further information on the cross-government family violence and sexual violence work programme can be found at: 

Reducing family and sexual violence

Crime prevention

This system encompasses crime prevention, early intervention, and reducing offending and related harm. The Ministry collaborates with a wide range of justice and social sector agencies within this system, including Oranga Tamariki–Ministry for Children and New Zealand Police.

This system aims to, where possible, prevent people from entering the formal criminal justice system. The Ministry’s work in this system includes bringing a crime reduction focus to whole-of-government work to reduce the social, health and educational risk factors that can lead to crime. This includes alcohol and other drug-related issues, or young people disengaged from education or training.

Youth justice

The youth justice system deals with children aged 10 to 13 years, and young people aged 14 to 17 years. It aims to give children and young people a genuine opportunity to change their lives for the better without getting a criminal record, while ensuring they are held accountable and encouraged to accept responsibility in a way they can learn from their mistakes.

This system aims to address the underlying factors that contribute to offending as early as possible, to reduce the potential for lifelong offending. It involves a range of mechanisms such as Alternative Action Plans, Family Group Conferences and, for the most serious youth offending, the Youth Court.

The Ministry works closely with a range of partners, including Oranga Tamariki–Ministry for Children (which administers the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 that governs the Youth Court) and New Zealand Police.