Types of hearings
In New Zealand, criminal cases can be heard by a judge-alone (judge-alone trial) or by a judge and jury (jury trial). This process is complicated and the following information might not apply to all cases.
It's always a good idea to talk to the prosecutor or court victim advisor about what to expect in your particular case.
Defendant pleads guilty
If the defendant pleads guilty, the next hearing will usually be the sentencing hearing. This is when the judge will consider your victim impact statement. You can attend the sentencing hearing if you want.
Defendant pleads not guilty
If the defendant pleads not guilty, their next appearance at court will usually be at a case review (there might not be a case review if the offence is minor). A case review is held at least 30 days after the defendant pleads not guilty. Its purpose is to determine whether the charge can be resolved without the need for a trial. A court registrar usually conducts the case review, rather than a judge.
Before the case review, the defendant/defendant’s lawyer and the prosecutor must jointly file a Case Management Memorandum. This Memorandum tells the court all the details that relate to the case, and what the issues will be at the trial.
After the case review, the registrar will adjourn the case until the trial date (if it’s a judge-alone trial) or until the jury trial callover (if it’s a jury trial).
Jury trial callover
The jury trial callover is held at least 40 days after the case was adjourned for the callover. Its purpose is to deal with procedural issues and make sure the case is ready to proceed to trial. A judge conducts the jury trial callover.
Before the jury trial callover, the defendant/defendant’s lawyer and the prosecutor must separately file a Trial Callover Memorandum. This Memorandum tells the court details like how many witnesses each side intends to call and gives notice of any pre-trial applications that will be made.
You do not usually have to attend the case review or jury trial callover. The prosecutor or court victim advisor will tell you if you need to attend.
If you've been called as a witness, you'll have to attend the trial to give evidence. At the end of the trial, the jury (for a jury trial) or the judge (where there isn’t a jury) decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. In some cases, such as when a jury cannot reach a decision, there may be another trial.
If the defendant is found guilty, the next hearing will be the sentencing hearing. This is when the judge will consider your victim impact statement. You can attend the sentencing hearing if you want.
The above information was adapted from Community Law Manual Online - Criminal Courts - Pre-trial processes(external link) with permission from Community Law Aotearoa.
For more information see the Community Law(external link) website.