The lead-up to the trial: Pre-trial processes
For all charges where you could be sent to prison for the offence (that is, Category 2 and above), the court will carry out a “case review” of the charge before the case goes to a trial, to examine whether the charge can be resolved without the need for a trial. (For the different categories of offences, see “Overview of criminal procedures / Four offence categories” in this chapter.)
Category 1 cases (that is, where you can't be jailed for the offence) don't have a case review unless a judge orders one.
Usually case reviews will be dealt with by the court registrar, rather than a judge.
Note: Category 1 cases can also be dealt with without the defendant being present, so it's important that you go to court if you want to be heard in response to the charge.
Date for the case review
For charges that are to be heard by a judge alone, without a jury, the case review will take place 30 working days after you plead not guilty.
For Category 3 offences (that is, offences carrying a prison term of two years or more), you have the right to choose a jury trial and, if you do so, the case review takes place 45 working days after the not guilty plea.
Case Management Memorandums
Before the case review, the defendant and the prosecutor must jointly file a Case Management Memorandum. This Memorandum tells the court all the details that relate to the case, and what the issues will be at the trial.
The Case Management Memorandum must be filed at least five working days before the case review date.
There are certain things the parties should discuss before filing the Memorandum, so that these can be addressed in the Memorandum if necessary.
Those issues include, among other things:
- whether you would like the judge to indicate what sentence you would receive if you pleaded guilty
- whether you would consider pleading guilty to a lesser or different charge
- whether the parties agree on any of the evidence that's to be called, which might mean that a witness does not have to come to court or that the trial will be shorter
- whether you object to any of the evidence the prosecutor wants to call at the trial
- whether the parties agree on how long the trial will take, and on a date for the trial.
Note: The issues to be discussed and dealt with in a Case Management Memorandum are set out on the form for the Memorandum, which can be downloaded from the Ministry of Justice website ( www.justice.govt.nz).
What happens at a case review?
A case review may or may not involve a case review hearing before a judge. Usually there won't be one.
The court registrar decides on the basis of the parties' Case Management Memorandum whether a hearing before a judge is necessary. The registrar deals with the case review if there is nothing in the Memorandum that requires a judge's attention – for example, if you make a request for a sentence indication.
If the registrar decides a case review hearing before a judge isn't necessary, you must appear in front of the registrar on the case review date. The registrar will adjourn the case until the trial date (if it's a judge-alone trial) or until the jury trial callover (if it's to be a jury trial).
If there is a case review hearing before a judge, the judge will have read the Case Management Memorandum and may make an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the case and whether there is room for negotiation between the prosecutor and defendant. For example:
- The prosecutor may be persuaded that the charge laid is too serious for the actions complained of.
- The defendant may accept that they have no answer to the prosecutor's evidence and plead guilty.
- Having heard from the defendant, the prosecutor may decide the summary of facts should be amended to more accurately reflect what happened.
- The judge may give an indication of what sentence would be imposed if the defendant were to change their plea to guilty.
What happens if I decide to plead guilty?
If you plead guilty at an early stage, the judge is required to give you a reduction in sentence. That reduction gets less as time goes by and the charge proceeds towards a trial. The case review will usually be the last opportunity for you to get a reduction in sentence for a plea of guilty, and the judge is likely to tell you this. Any indication as to what sentence you will get if you plead guilty is likely to change if that guilty plea is not made until later.
If, based on the case review, you decide to change your plea to guilty, the judge may either sentence you at the case review or set a future date for sentencing (see “Sentencing” in this chapter).
Can a complainant attend a case review hearing?
Yes. The person who made the complaint against the defendant (the complainant) can attend the case review hearing, if one is held, and will be invited to address the court if they wish. More commonly, where appropriate, a victim impact statement will be prepared for the court and the judge will be given this in advance of the hearing.