How it works
Crime affects the whole community. The prosecutor works for the government and is responsible for prosecuting cases on behalf of the Crown, the police and the public.
You may need to be a witness for the prosecution to help prove the case against the defendant (the person accused of the crime).
The defendant is always considered innocent until proven guilty. It's the prosecutor’s role to prove that the defendant is guilty ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. Otherwise, the defendant is found not guilty.
Different types of hearings
The defendant will probably appear at court several times, for example to plead guilty or not guilty or for the judge to look at the evidence of the case.
If the defendant pleads guilty, a date will be set for a sentencing hearing. The case may also be adjourned to see whether a restorative justice conference should take place.
If the person pleads not guilty, the case will go to trial. A police prosecutor or a Crown prosecutor will present the case to the court, depending on the seriousness of the crime.
In New Zealand, criminal cases are either heard by a judge alone (judge-alone trial) or by a jury (jury trial). The defendant can only elect to have a jury trial if the offence carries a maximum penalty of two or more years in prison.
More information about the criminal justice process
You can read about:
- the courtroom layout and different people’s roles in court
- the defendant’s plea (they can plead guilty or not guilty)
- different types of hearings
- different types of courts.