Glossary of terms

Acquittal

This is a judgment that a defendant is not guilty of a crime or charges as charged.

Address for filing

The address of the registry where documents can be taken or sent.

Address for service

An address of a place in New Zealand where all documents for the prosecution or the defence can be taken or sent.

Adjourn

To postpone a court sitting, or any meeting, to another date and/or location.

Admissible

Evidence is admissible if it is of such a character that the court is bound to accept it during the trial so that it may be evaluated by the judge or jury.

Affirm

A solemn and formal declaration of the truth of a statement, such as an Affidavit.

Affirmation

A solemn and formal declaration of the truth of a statement. The same as an oath, but without the religious implications.  

Bail

If you are charged with an offence, you may apply for bail. Bail is when you are released from court or Police custody most likely on conditions, including that you return to court for their next required appearance. For more information see the Bail Act 2000 (external link) and the Community Law website (external link) .

Burden of proof

Refers to the responsibility of proving a disputed charge or allegation.

In criminal cases, the prosecution has this responsibility and the standard of proof that applies is beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that it is the prosecutor’s role to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant (you) is guilty of committing the alleged offence(s); the defendant does not have to prove their innocence.

Call-over

A call-over is a meeting where the judge and the lawyers for both sides discuss any pre-trial issues. If you are an unrepresented litigant, you must attend.

Case Review Hearing

A case review hearing is held to examine whether a charge can be resolved without the need for a trial. For example, if the prosecution withdraws the charges against you, or if you plead guilty to the charges, there would be no trial.

If a trial is to occur, the case review hearing is also an opportunity for either party to highlight any matters that need to be resolved before the trial takes place.

Charge

Is a formal accusation brought to the court that a person or organisation has committed a criminal offence.

Contempt of court

Is the offence of being disobedient to, or disrespectful towards, a court of law and its officers.

CRI

Is a system generated unique reference number assigned to a proceeding that can contain numerous CRNs belonging to any number of defendants.

A CRI is distinct from a CRN because a CRN is a unique number assigned to a specific and singular charge, not a proceeding.

Criminal proceeding

Action taken in a court to bring a criminal prosecution against someone.

Criminal Trial

A proceeding in which opposing parties present evidence and make arguments on the application of the law before a judge or jury. After both sides have presented their arguments, a judge or jury finds the defendant guilty or not guilty of the crime(s) charged.

CRN

A Court Record Number (CRN) is a unique number assigned to a specific and singular charge laid by the prosecutor.

A CRN is distinct from a CRI because a CRI is a system generated unique reference number assigned to a proceeding, not a specific and singular charge. A CRI can contain numerous CRNs belonging to any number of defendants.

Cross-examination

Following an examination-in-chief, this is when the lawyer for the opposing side has an opportunity to ask the witness questions to challenge the other side’s case.

Defendant

Someone charged with a criminal offence.

To deliberate

To consider the facts, law and other matters, particularly by members of a jury.

Disclosure

Disclosure (external link) is a copy of the evidence (external link) that the Crown (external link) and police have collected to prosecute (external link) your case. For more information see the Criminal Disclosure Act 2008 (external link) .

Evidence

The various things presented in court to prove alleged facts, including written or spoken testimony from witnesses, and other material such as documents, maps etc.

Evidence-in-chief

This is when you testify as witness for the defence.

Examination-in-chief

This is when the lawyer for one side calls their witnesses and asks them questions in court to support their case.

Expert witness

A person who is a specialist in a subject who may present his or her expert opinion, without having witnessed the actual criminal event.

File

To file a document with a registry of the High Court.

First appeal

The first time you appeal a decision of a court.

First appeal court

The level of court that decides the first appeal.

Further appeal

When you appeal the decision made by the court that heard the first appeal. For example, if you appealed the decision of a Community Magistrate to the District Court (a first appeal), you may then be able to appeal that District Court decision to the High Court (further appeal). You must always seek leave to bring a further appeal.

Inadmissible evidence

Evidence that is not admissible. In other words, evidence that cannot be received into evidence at a trial for consideration by the judge and/or jury. For example, irrelevant evidence. More information about admissibility of evidence can be found in the Evidence Act 2006 (external link) .

Judgment

A formal decision given by a court, including the reasons the judge gives for his or her decision.

Judicial decision

A decision made by a judicial officer, such as a Justice of the Peace, Community Magistrate or judge.

Leave

Permission obtained from the court to take some action which, without such permission, would not be allowed.

Leave to appeal

Permission obtained from the court you are appealing to before that court will consider your appeal.

Legal aid

Legal aid is government funding to pay for legal help for people who cannot afford a lawyer. Information about legal aid is available on the Ministry’s website (external link) and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau website (external link) .

McKenzie Friend

Somebody who accompanies an unrepresented litigant to a court hearing for the purpose of assisting him in such matters as taking notes, helping to organise the documents, and quietly making suggestions. For example, suggesting questions to put to a witness.  

Name suppression

In most cases, the media has the right to publish a person’s name if that person has been charged with an offence. In cases where publication of a person’s name might lead to undue hardship for that person or another person, the Court can grant either interim or permanent name suppression. More information is available in section 200 (external link) the Act and on the Community Law website (external link) .

Oath

A declaration made according to the law to tell the truth. The oath is taken on the Bible.

Offender

A person convicted of a criminal offence.

Plea

A plea is a defendant’s response to the charge before the court – namely guilty or not guilty.

Presumption of innocence

The presumption of innocence is a basic right under New Zealand’s criminal justice system. If you are charged with a crime, you have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Prosecution

The party taking the case against the defendant. This can either be the police, Crown solicitor or private prosecutor. In the High Court the prosecutor will always be either a Crown solicitor or private prosecutor.

Re-examination

This is when the lawyer who carried out the examination-in-chief gets a chance to question their own witnesses again to clarify points arising out of the cross-examination.

Registrar

A court official who makes sure that the formal processes of the court are followed and that accurate records of hearings are kept, and who gives effect to any direction from the judge.

Remanded

After one court appearance you will be “remanded” to your next appearance.  This means you will either be:

  • remanded at large, which means you are free to go until your next appearance; or
  • remanded on bail, which means you are released on bail. There are usually conditions that you must comply with (such as having to live at a particular place, having no contact with the victim, or having to report to police regularly); or
  • remanded in custody, which means you are held in prison until your next court date.

Following your court appearance, you will usually need to stay in court until the appropriate paperwork has been prepared for you to be remanded.

Reserved decision

Following the hearing of a case the judge may reserve their decision. This is when the judge defers giving the decision to a later date or time.

Restorative justice

Refers to a voluntary meeting between a victim and offender, and their respective support people, before sentencing.

The aim of these meetings is to allow victims to have a say and focus on their needs, while offenders can take responsibility for their actions and for putting things right.

A report of the meeting, and any recommendations arising out of it, go to the judge and are taken into account at sentencing.

Not all courts offer access to restorative justice and it is not suitable for all offences.

Sentence indication

A statement by the court that provides you with an idea of the type and quantum (amount) of sentence you would be likely to receive for a charge(s), if you pleaded guilty to that charge.

Serve

To give a copy of a document to every other person or organisation that is part of the proceeding and also to every other person that the court directs to be served.

Submission

An argument that is presented to the court in support of an application. It can be written or oral (spoken).

Summons

A notice to a witness requiring them to appear in court. In a criminal court, only court officers can issue a summons.

Swear

To declare under oath that one will tell the truth.

Testify

To give evidence in a court of law.

Verdict

The decision that is made at the end of the trial about whether you are guilty or not guilty of the charges against you.

Victim

A person against whom an offence is committed by another person, causing physical injury, or loss of, or damage to, property. It also includes the parent or legal guardian of a child, or young person, who is the victim of an offence, unless that parent or guardian is convicted in relation to that offence. A victim is also a member of the immediate family of a person who dies or is rendered incapable because of an offence committed against them, unless that family member is convicted in relation to that case. More information about victim’s rights is available in the Victims’ Rights Act 2002 (external link) .

Witness

A person who gives evidence in court about what they’ve seen, heard or otherwise experienced.