Types of sentences
If a defendant doesn’t get bail, they can become a ‘remand prisoner’ and be held in a police or court cell, hospital or care facility, or in a prison until their trial or sentencing.
Any time spent as a remand prisoner is counted as part of the offender serving their sentence.
Where an offender has spent a long time on remand, they can sometimes be sentenced and released on the same day.
Going to prison is the most serious sentence. The judge decides how long the offender will go to prison for by considering the maximum penalty for the crime and how serious the crime was.
For some crimes, the law specifies the minimum amount of time in prison that the judge must give the offender (for example, life imprisonment for murder), unless it would be unjust to do so.
Offenders sentenced to life imprisonment will usually serve at least 10 years in prison before being eligible for parole.
An offender may be sentenced to preventive detention if they’re a significant and ongoing risk to the public. If the offender can’t show at a later date that they’re no longer such a risk, they’ll never be released.
Offenders sentenced to preventive detention must be in prison for at least 5 years before they’re eligible for parole. Judges can set a minimum non-parole period longer than 5 years.
A sentence of home detention can be given to an offender who would otherwise have been sentenced to prison for 2 years or less. Home detention sentences can be between 14 days and one year.
Offenders on home detention will be supervised by a probation officer and must be at an approved address at all times. They’ll also be electronically monitored while on home detention.
Offenders may also be required to do programmes to address the causes of their offending or complete a sentence of community work.
Community based sentences are non-custodial sentences. This means the offender is in the community and is allowed to move around (sometimes with restrictions).
An offender sentenced to community detention will have a curfew and must be at the address approved by the court at specified times for between 2 and 84 hours a week. Community detention sentences can range from 14 days to 6 months.
Offenders sentenced to community detention are electronically monitored.
An offender sentenced to community work will have to do between 40 and 400 hours of unpaid work in the community. Most offenders work in a team supervised by staff from the Department of Corrections.
Community work can include activities like cleaning beaches, helping in food banks or working with charities or the local council on projects.
Sentences of supervision help offenders address the causes of their offending and rejoin the community.
An offender may be sentenced to supervision if they’ve committed a less serious offence and don’t have complex rehabilitation needs. They’ll be supervised by a probation officer and will have to report to them regularly.
A sentence of supervision can be between 6 months and a year.
An offender may be sentenced to intensive supervision if they’ve committed a more serious offence, have complex rehabilitation needs and are considered to be a medium to high risk of reoffending.
They’ll be supervised by a probation officer and will have to report to them more regularly than would be required under a sentence of supervision. They may also have to complete rehabilitation programmes.
A sentence of intense supervision can be between 6 months and 2 years.
A judge may get a report (called ‘judicial monitoring’), and can consider adjusting the offender’s sentence of intensive supervision depending on the offender’s progress.
Reparation and fines
The judge can order the offender to pay a victim some money if they’ve caused them emotional harm, property loss or damage as a result of the crime. The court collects these payments and sends them to the victim.
Read more about reparation, including who to contact if you have any questions about the reparation owed to you, on the Ministry of Justice website (external link) .
The judge can order the offender to pay money to the government. Read more about fines on the Ministry of Justice website (external link) .
This means the offender has been found guilty of the crime but will only be sentenced if they commit another crime within a year.
An offender guilty of an offence can be convicted and discharged if the judge thinks the conviction is penalty enough and no sentence is needed.
An offender guilty of an offence can be discharged without a conviction if the judge thinks that the consequences of a conviction are out of proportion with the seriousness of the offence.
More information about sentencing