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— Jury Trials

All New Zealanders have a right to choose trial by jury if they are charged with a serious offence, punishable by two or more years in prison. This right is protected by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

Door with sign on it saying Jury Assembly.

Jury trials are an important part of the criminal justice system. Members of the jury are the fact-finders in a case; they determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant.

The jury process allows members of the public to participate in the court process and to be directly involved in the administration of justice and the rule of law.

A jury is comprised of 12 New Zealanders who are selected at random. To reach a decision, all members of the jury must agree. However, there are certain cases where a decision may be reached with the agreement of 11 jurors. If jurors return a guilty verdict, a judge will impose the sentence.

Most jury trials in Aotearoa New Zealand are heard in the District Court. Just over 100 full-time District Court judges hold jury trial warrants, and another 17 acting warranted judges can also preside over jury trials.

COVID-19 disrupted the District Court’s ability to hold jury trials for a period towards the end of the reporting year. On 23 March 2020 all jury trials in New Zealand were suspended, but by early August had mostly recommenced. This has impacted considerably on jury trial timeframes and statistics.

National Statistics

 Graph showing jury trial cases.

 

  2015-2016 2016-2017 2017-2018 2018-2019 2019-2020
New Trial Cases 3,042 3,267 3,374 3,629 3,629
Disposals 2,676 2,824 2,936 2,912 2,996
Active Cases 2,184 2,342 2,534 2,949 3,315

Comparing the current Fiscal year to the previous Fiscal year has seen:

    New business remain at the same level

    Disposals increase by 84 applications (+3%)

    Active cases increase by 366 applications (+12%)