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Jury Trials

The right to trial by jury is protected in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. A defendant has the right to elect a jury trial where he or she is charged with an offence punishable by a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment or more.

Image of empty court room.More than 90% of jury trials in New Zealand are dealt with in the District Court where 100 judges hold jury trial warrants.

Trial by jury is deeply rooted in history but today these trials are reserved for more serious crimes. The trials comprise all categories of eligible offences other than the most serious, such as murder, manslaughter or treason.

In a jury trial, findings of fact are made by 12 members of the community rather than by a judge. The jury decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty and must reach that decision either unanimously or, incertain circumstances, by a majority of 11 to 1.

National Statistics

The jury trial caseload is made up almost entirely of cases commenced under the Criminal Procedure Act 2011. The jury trial statistics are recorded by number of cases rather than people because each case may involve several charges or people. Some cases may be managed together. It should also be noted that the figures quoted relate to case volumes and not the underlying complexity and time taken to deal with jury trials.

Graph showing new, disposed and active jury trial cases from 2013 to 2018.

 

2013-2014

2014-2015

2014-2015

2016-2017

2017-2018

New Trial Cases

2,370 

2,595

3,042

3,267

3,374

Disposals

2,751

2,195

2,676 

2,824

2,936

Active Cases

1,918

2,004

2,184

2,342

2,534

 

Comparing the current year to the previous year has seen:

•    New trial cases increase by 107 cases (+3%)

•    Disposals increase by 112 cases (+4%)

•    Active cases increase by 192 cases (+8%)