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Prisoner's rights

Starting your sentence

Calculating your sentence

What are “concurrent” sentences?

Sentencing Act 2002, ss 82-84; Parole Act 2002, s 91; Prison Operations Manual, I.03.Res.02-Res.05

“Concurrent”‘ sentences mean different sentences served at the same time. This will usually be because the offences were of a similar kind and connected in some way. The judge will state whether or not sentences are concurrent when sentencing takes place.

For example: Someone is sentenced on two charges of assault after getting into a fight with two other people. They are sentenced to 3 months imprisonment on one charge and 4 months imprisonment on the other charge to be served concurrently. The prison sentence will be 4 months because they are served at the same time (not added together for a 7 month sentence).

What are “cumulative”‘ sentences?

“Cumulative” sentences mean different sentences that are added together to get a total sentence length. This will usually be because the offences were of a different kind and not connected. The judge will state whether or not sentences are concurrent when sentencing takes place.

For example: Someone is sentenced on one charge of assault and one charge of burglary. Each charge was unrelated and took place on different days. They are sentenced to 3 months imprisonment on the assault and 4 months imprisonment on the burglary, to be served cumulatively. The total prison sentence will be 7 months.

How do I calculate my sentence?

The amount of days you will spend in prison is calculated by figuring out how many actual days there are in your sentence.

The sentence start date will be stated on the warrant of imprisonment issued once you have been sentenced.

For example:

If you are sentenced to 1 year in prison it will be calculated in days

1 year = 365 days

If your sentence is for 2 years or less then you will be released after half the sentence.

Half of 365 = 182.5

Half days are rounded up, so the total days you will serve in prison will be 183

If your sentence is for more than two years, then in most cases you will be eligible for parole after serving one third of the sentence.

For example: If you are sentenced to 3 years in prison

3 years = 1095 days (365 x 3)

One third of 1095 = 365

Your sentence is for 1095 days, but you will be able to apply for parole after 365 days.

Note: About every four years there is a leap year (where February has 29 days instead of 28 days. If your sentence length includes a leap year then this will add an extra day to your sentence)

See the chapter Release from prison

What if I have different short-term sentences that add up to more than two years?

If you are serving a number of different sentences that ‘cumulatively’ add up to more than 2 years, then this will be treated as one long-term sentence (called a notional single sentence) for the purposes of figuring out your sentence length.

For example:

If you are sentenced to 1 year imprisonment, with another cumulative sentence of 1 year and another cumulative sentence of 2 years.

1 year + 1 year + 2 years = 4 years

4 years = 1460 days (365 x 4)

One third of 1460 = 486.6 (rounded up to 487)

Your sentence is for 1460 days, but you will be eligible for parole after 487 days.

Note: Sentence calculations are different if you were sentenced before June 2002.

Do the days I spent on remand count as part of my sentence?

Yes. If you have spent time in custody (in a police jail or prison) before you are sentenced, then this time will count as part of your sentence length.

For example:

You are sentenced to 3 different sentences of 1 year each and have already spent 3 months in prison on remand

If the sentences are concurrent:

  • The sentences are served at the same time. Actual length of prison sentence is 1 year.
  • Because it is a short-term sentence (2 years or less) you are released after serving half the sentence.
  • Half of one year = 6 months
  • You have already served 3 months on remand, so 3 months is deducted from each individual sentence.
  • 6 months minus 3 months = 3 months. The amount of time still to serve in prison is 3 months.

If the sentences are cumulative:

  • The sentences are added together to form one notional single sentence.
  • 1 year plus 1 year plus 1 year = 3 years
  • You have already served 3 months on remand, so 3 months is deducted from the total sentence (not from each individual sentence).
  • 3 years minus 3 months = 2 years and 9 months.
  • The amount of time still to serve in prison is 2 years and 9 months (but you will be eligible for parole after one third of the sentence has been served).

Calculating sentences can be more complicated, especially if you have been on remand for different charges at different times before being sentenced.

If you are unsure about calculating your sentence, or think your sentence has been calculated wrong, you should talk with your lawyer, your PCO or case manager, or a Community Law Centre.

Next Section | Which prison?

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Community Law

www.communitylaw.org.nz

Your local Community Law Centre can provide initial free legal advice and information.

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