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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Sanctions Available to the Courts

The Criminal Justice Act of 1954 extensively revised the penal system. Its approach was to provide every means of diverting the young or inexperienced offender from a life of crime, while protecting the community against the hardened criminal by keeping him out of society for a long period. The following are the principal sanctions at present available to the Courts when an offender is convicted.

Probation. Anyone convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment may be released on probation for a term of between one and three years. There are statutory conditions relating to such matters as employment, residence, associates, and general behaviour, and the offender is under the supervision of a probation officer. Special conditions are often imposed; for instance, that the offender shall abstain from intoxicating liquor or pay a specified sum as restitution. An offender may be fined as well as being placed on probation. Breach of the conditions of probation is an offence and also renders the probationer liable to be sentenced for the original offence. Probation is widely used in New Zealand, 2,024 offenders being placed on probation in 1964, a figure slightly higher than in recent years.

Fine. Fines are by far the most common penalty imposed in this country and the only penalty for minor offences not punishable by imprisonment. In 1964, 146,488 fines were imposed in all Courts, the great majority being in the Magistrates' Courts for traffic violations.

Periodic Detention. This sentence, introduced in 1962, is intermediate between probation and the detention centre or borstal. In August 1965 it was available to Auckland, Christchurch, and Invercargill Courts. Intended principally for delinquents of the lout, larrikin, and vandal types, it may be imposed on any male between 15 and 21 who could be imprisoned for his offence or who refuses to pay a fine. A youth sentenced to periodic detention must report at a work centre on a specified number of occasions in each week during a specified period. This period must be spent in participating in such activities, attending such classes, and undergoing such instruction as the warden of the centre considers conducive to reformation. The offender may be employed on such suitable work within or outside the centre as the warden directs. It may be noted that there is power to detain the offender overnight, but not for a longer continuous period than 60 hours.

Detention Centre. Male offenders between 16 and 21 convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment may be sentenced to detention in a detention centre. The term is three months, reducible to two for good behaviour. The sentence provides a short period of discipline and hard work, coupled with positive educational measures. During 1964, 205 youths received this sentence, which is served at Waikeria Youth Centre in the Waikato.

Borstal Training. This involves detention in a borstal for an indefinite period not exceeding two years. To qualify, the offender must be between 17 (in special cases 15) and 21 and convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment. The time of release is determined by a Borstal Parole Board. There are borstals for males at Waikeria, Invercargill, and Waipiata, in Central Otago. Another is planned for the sandhill country near Wanganui, and inmates will be employed in afforestation work. The main borstal for girls is at Tawa, near Wellington. In 1964 this sentence was imposed on 449 offenders.

Imprisonment. This may be for a finite term or for life, the maximum for each offence being prescribed by statute. Inmates whose sentence is finite may earn remission of up to one-quarter of their sentence by good behaviour.

In 1964, 3,401 persons were sentenced to imprisonment. Anyone serving a sentence of up to eight days may be detained at any police station and those serving not more than 28 days may be detained in one of the police gaols. There are 11 principal prisons, including two prison-farms, both in the central North Island. The maximum-security prison for New Zealand is at Mount Eden, Auckland, where “lifers”, dangerous criminals, and preventive detainees are held. This institution has outlived its usefulness and a new maximum-security prison is being built at Paremoremo, across the harbour.

Preventive Detention. This may be imposed on certain persistent offenders and involves detention for a minimum of three years and a maximum (except in the case of sexual offenders) of 14.