Communtity Law Manual | Criminal Courts | Basic rights under the Bill of Rights for people standing trial

The trial

Basic rights under the Bill of Rights for people standing trial

New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, ss 24-26

The Bill of Rights Act places these two key restrictions on what you can be tried for:

  • No retrospective convictions – You can't be convicted of an offence if the thing you did wasn't a criminal offence when you did it.
  • Double jeopardy – You can't be tried or punished for an offence if you've already been convicted or found not guilty of the offence, or if you've been pardoned for it.

If you have to stand trial, you have the following rights:

  • No undue delay – You have the right to be tried without unnecessary delay.
  • A fair hearing – You have the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial court.
  • Presumption of innocence – You have the right to be presumed innocent until you're proven guilty according to the law.
  • No forced confessions – You have the right not to be forced to be a witness or to admit guilt.
  • Your presence at the trial – You have the right to be present at your trial and to defend yourself (which is usually done through a lawyer).
  • Witnesses – You have the right to question the prosecution's witnesses. You have the right to present your own witnesses and for those witnesses to be questioned under the same conditions as prosecution witnesses.
  • Right to trial by jury – You have the right to a trial by jury if the offence you're charged with has a penalty of more than three months' imprisonment.
  • Interpreters – Every person who's charged has the right to have the free assistance of an interpreter if they can't understand or speak the language used in court.
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