Trial and prison

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The High Court trial

On the day of the trial, Oliver is brought into the High Court from prison and is held in the court cells until his appearance. At he is brought up to the courtroom.

A jury of twelve has been chosen from a pool of about sixty people who have been called to do jury service.

Once the jury has been chosen, the list of witnesses for the prosecution is read out loud. If one of the jurors knows a witness, they must let the judge know. The judge will decide whether or not they can still be a juror based on how well they know the witness.

For more information about juries, see jury service.

The Crown and defence counsel (lawyers for the police and for the defendant, Oliver) can each object to up to four of the potential jurors. Counsel can "challenge" potential jurors who they think may be biased towards the people in the trial.

The judge explains to the jury why Oliver is on trial. The jury then selects one juror who will speak on behalf of the jury (a foreperson).

The trial will take five days (but this could be much longer, depending on the situation). The Crown outlines its case and introduces the witnesses. The trial starts with the prosecution and then the defence making their case. They question the accused and witnesses (Crown), cross-examine the accused and witnesses (Defence) and re-examine the accused and witnesses (Crown), and show exhibits (evidence).

Once all the evidence is presented, the judge sums up (gives an unbiased summary of the case) and the jury decides if Oliver is guilty or not guilty.

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Guilty verdict

Oliver is brought back into the courtroom, and the foreperson delivers the verdict – the decision of the jury. They find Oliver guilty on all charges. The Crown (the lawyer for the Police) argues that, as a convicted offender, Oliver should be remanded in custody – held in prison – to await sentencing. The court agrees. (Sentencing is announcing the penalty for Oliver's crime.)

The judge asks a probation officer to assess Oliver and prepare a report (called a PAC - Provisional Advice to Court - report), to help the judge decide on Oliver's sentence. The probation officer works for the Department of Corrections, supervising offenders like Oliver before and after they go to prison.

The police prepare victim impact statements, which must be less than 28 days old at the time of sentencing. In these statements, the victims describe the physical and emotional effects of the crime, as well as any loss of property. The defence lawyer also gets a chance to prepare a plea for Oliver "in mitigation", which aims to reduce his sentence.

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Oliver is sentenced

Three weeks later, Oliver reappears before the trial judge and counsel for sentencing.

Oliver can address (talk to) the court through his counsel or directly if the judge permits. Both the Crown and the defence can make oral (spoken) submissions if they haven't already made written submissions.

The police may attend sentencing to:

  • deal with any prosecution-related issues
  • support witnesses who are there to see justice being done
  • inform people interested in the case about the outcome
  • see the case come to a conclusion.

Family members of the victims killed in the crash have decided to appear before the court and read out their victim impact statements.

The judge sentences Oliver to a three-year sentence, which means he will go to prison. He is also disqualified from driving or having a driver's licence for five years. The judge signs a warrant giving the prison the authority to hold Oliver for the three-year term.

This is the end of the court's involvement with Oliver, unless he successfully appeals the sentence. He could do this by formally asking the Court of Appeal to reconsider his case.

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Oliver goes to prison

The Department of Corrections decides which prison Oliver will go to, after considering things like any special drug programmes he may need to attend, or whether he needs to be near his family. Oliver is taken to a minimum/medium security prison run by the Prisons Service.

When he gets to prison, officials assess his risk of reoffending (committing another crime), the reasons behind his committing the crime, and his willingness to change. The in-depth assessment also looks at his educational, health and other needs, and his security risks.

Based on this assessment, Corrections staff write a sentence plan that focuses on giving Oliver a chance to break the cycle of reoffending.

When Oliver leaves prison, he'll face the challenge of returning to normal life. His sentence plan may aim to help with this by including topics like budgeting, getting a job and handling relationships.

The plan aims to give the best kind of help for Oliver's needs. Because Oliver smoked a joint before the crash happened it also includes an alcohol and drug rehabilitation programme. Generally, the longer a person is in prison, the more access they have to rehabilitation programmes.

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Oliver is released on parole

Oliver qualifies for parole after serving one-third of his sentence – one year. Parole means Oliver is released from prison but has to follow conditions set by the New Zealand Parole Board. Oliver will have to follow these conditions for the remaining two years of his sentence.

The parole eligibility date (PED) is set out in the Parole Act 2002. For offenders with sentences of more than two years, the PED is one-third of their sentence. (This does not include offenders who have life sentences or are on preventive detention.) There is no guarantee that Oliver will be released from prison on his PED but he has the right to go before the Parole Board. The Parole Board will consider reports from prison officers and other Corrections staff, perhaps the police, and his victims. It will also hear from Oliver about his progress since his he went to prison, including his behaviour as a prisoner.

Parole aims to encourage offenders to participate in rehabilitation programmes that target the cause of their offending. Parole also gives the community a way of controlling the release of an offender back into society. Offenders are supervised by probation officers after their release.  The probation officers make sure offenders follow the conditions of their parole.

The safety of the community is the first priority the Parole Board considers when deciding whether to release an offender on parole. The board considers the risk of Oliver reoffending and how serious that reoffending might be.

In fact, it is unusual for an offender like Oliver to be paroled at his first hearing. If he stays in prison, the Board must, by law, consider him again at least once every 12 months. If he is not paroled, Oliver will be released three months before the end of his sentence – the sentence end date (SED). Even then, the Parole Board can set release conditions that stay in force until six months after his SED.

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Oliver is released from prison

The Parole Board hearing agrees that Oliver can be released from prison. The Community Probation Service will supervise him. It is run by the Department of Corrections.

He must report to his probation officer within 72 hours of his release. The probation officer checks his progress in meeting his release conditions, but he is not under 24 hour supervision. The conditions set down as part of his parole cover:

  • where he lives and works
  • who he meets with
  • his use of alcohol and drugs
  • his attending a community-based drug rehabilitation programme.

Once on parole, Oliver can't choose to return to prison. But if he breaches his parole conditions or commits another offence that would be punishable by a prison sentence, he can be recalled by the Parole Board to resume his prison sentence.

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Oliver's future

Oliver leaves prison and returns to the community, after he has completed his prison term. Oliver's future is up to him. He has to choose whether his life is free from crime. If he reoffends – commits a crime again – and the police catch him, he will once again face the criminal justice system.

Explore the civil justice system through the case of Mei Hsu, who thinks someone stole her idea.

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