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Sentence types

This page provides details about how sentence types are counted and shown in the criminal conviction and sentencing tables.

How sentences are determined for the tables

Multiple sentences may be imposed for the same charge. However, for the convicted offenders table, only the most serious sentence for each offender in that year is shown in the tables.

The most serious sentence for each charge is determined by its seriousness ranking. For example, imprisonment sentences are the highest rank, followed by home detention and other community sentences (e.g. community detention, intensive supervision, community work and supervision). Monetary sentences (reparation and fine) have a lower seriousness. A final protection order (Sentencing Act) has a higher rank than disqualification from driving, which is higher than order for forfeiture. Court costs and no sentence recorded have the lowest seriousness ranks.

A range of information is used to determine which charge is an offender's most serious in a year. This includes charge outcome, sentence types, sentence length/amount, remands in custody, and bail and maximum offence penalties.

Effect on numbers of less serious sentence types

Care should be taken when using sentence information, as only the most serious sentence is shown. This means that sentence types usually used in combination with other more serious sentence types will be undercounted in these tables. For example, the number of people who receive a monetary sentence as their most serious sentence will be fewer than the number of people who receive a monetary sentence overall. In comparison, the number of people who receive an imprisonment sentence as their most serious sentence will equal the number who receive imprisonment overall.

Legislative changes

The Sentencing Act 2002 and the Sentencing Amendment Act 2007 made a number of changes to the types of sentences available.

Note that statistics for some sentences may appear in the criminal conviction and sentencing tables before their relevant legislation came into effect. For example, community detention data is recorded from 2002 onwards, even though this sentence was introduced as a result of the Sentencing Amendment Act 2008. This happens because the recorded year is based on date of conviction, not the date of sentencing.

See Sentencing legislation for more information about legislative changes.

Sentence types in the tables

The sentence types shown in the criminal conviction and sentencing tables are as follows:

  • Imprisonment sentences – include life imprisonment, preventive detention, imprisonment.
  • Community sentences – include home detention (from 2007), community detention (from 2007), intensive supervision (from 2007), community work, and supervision (from 2007).  
  • Monetary penalties – are fines or reparation. 
  • Other – includes obsolete sentences that were abolished with the implementation of the Sentencing Act 2002 (such as borstal training, corrective training, detention centre, and suspended imprisonment). It also includes:
    • orders for committal to a secure facility (under section 118 Criminal Justice Act 1984 (for 2003 and prior) or section 34 of the Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act 2003 (for 2004 and onwards)).
    • order to come up for sentence if called upon (where an offender is re-sentenced for an offence if subsequently convicted of a further offence within a fixed term).
    • sentences disqualification from driving, alcohol interlock order and zero alcohol licence (from 2012), order for forfeiture (from 2004), instrument forfeiture (from 2010), confiscation of motor vehicle, and Final Protection Order (from 2010).
  • No sentence recorded – includes court costs and instances where an offender has been convicted and discharged without any penalty being imposed (under section 20 of the Criminal Justice Act 1985 or section 108 of the Sentencing Act 2002).

Imprisonment sentences

Imprisonment sentences include life imprisonment, preventive detention, and imprisonment.

Life imprisonment and preventive detention

Life imprisonment and preventive detention are both indeterminate sentences (i.e. the sentence continues to apply for the entire life of the offender, although the offender can be released on parole). These sentences are generally only imposed on offenders convicted of murder or on serious repeat sex-offenders.

Prior to the commencement of the Sentencing Act 2002 and the Parole Act 2002, offenders sentenced to these indeterminate sentences were not eligible for parole until they had served 10 years in custody. However, for both sentences, a minimum non-parole period longer than 10 years could be imposed by the court. Under section 89 of the Sentencing Act 2002, offenders sentenced to preventive detention must be ordered to serve a minimum period of imprisonment of at least five years.

Imprisonment

Determinate sentences of imprisonment are sentences with a fixed term that can be imposed at the discretion of the court, up to a maximum period set out in legislation.

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Community sentences

There are five community-based sentences in New Zealand – home detention, community detention, intensive supervision, community work, intensive supervision, and supervision.

Before the implementation of the Sentencing Act 2002, the four community-based sentences were periodic detention, community service, community programme, and supervision. The Sentencing Act 2002 resulted in community work replacing both periodic detention and community service. Supervision was also changed to include the care aspect of the community programme sentence.

The Sentencing Amendment Act 2007 increased the sentencing options available, with home detention and other forms of supervision in the community now being imposed as alternatives to imprisonment, monetary penalties, and community work.

Home detention

This sentence requires an offender to remain at an approved residence at all times under electronic monitoring and close supervision by a probation officer. Offenders can be placed under home detention for a minimum period of 14 days and a maximum of 12 months.

Community detention

This is a community-based sentence that requires the offender to comply with an electronically monitored curfew imposed by the court. Offenders can be placed under curfew for up to six months, for between two and 84 hours per week.

Intensive supervision

This is a rehabilitative, community-based sentence similar to supervision (see below). However, it may be imposed for up to two years, may include participation in residential treatment and training programmes, and requires regular reports to be made to the court about sentence compliance.

Community work

The amount of community work imposed can range from a minimum of 40 hours to a maximum of 400 hours. The offender must report to a probation officer who will determine the appropriate placement of the offender (i.e. at a community work centre or another agency, or a combination of both).

Sentences of periodic detention, community service, and community programme that were handed down prior to the implementation of the Sentencing Act 2002 are also included under community work in the tables.

Supervision

Supervision can be imposed for a period of between six months and two years. The offender is under the supervision of a probation officer and must report to the probation officer, as and when instructed. Prior to the Criminal Justice Act 1985, supervision was known as probation.

All offenders sentenced to supervision are subject to standard conditions (e.g. restrictions relating to the offender’s work, residence, or associates) and to any special conditions imposed by the court (e.g. relating to programmes).

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Monetary penalties

Monetary penalties shown in the criminal conviction and sentencing tables include fines and reparation sentences. They do not include court costs (which are included in 'no sentence recorded').

Fines resulting from the issue of infringement notices (for speeding or parking offences etc.) are not included in these tables.

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