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Crime and Punishment



The Aotearoa criminal justice system aims to maintain community safety while ensuring the wellbeing of victims of crime and holding offenders accountable. However, achieving an effective, fair and just system also requires addressing the factors that have contributed to the offending.

In 2023, overall crime has risen, with increases in reported victimisations and victims, as well as an increase in the justice response, as measured by arrests and legal proceedings. This reflects not only heightened police activity but also an increase in community-experienced crime. The past year witnessed a 20 percent surge in estimated offences and a 7 percent increase in violent offences. These widespread increases underscore the significant challenges our nation faces in addressing sustained crime levels. Justice system activity has also increased, with a 14 percent rise in active cases in district courts (particularly youth courts) and a 12 percent increase in convictions.

NCVS Cycle 1–5, adults experiencing crime and the number of offences—2018–2022

Family violence remains a prominent concern, as police conducted 177,548 Family Harm Investigations (FHI), and the proportion deemed a crime reached 40.6 percent. Charges, people charged, convictions and imprisonments for family violence offences also increased in the past year. Efforts to address family violence have evolved since the introduction of the Family Violence Act 2018 and the implementation of Te Aorerekura: National Strategy to Eliminate Sexual and Family Violence (2019).

The number of people in prison was 8893 in September 2023, and has steadily increased every quarter in the past year. Despite this rise, the most common type of sentencing is still community sentences, comprising 45 percent of convictions. The remand population now represents 43.4 percent of the total prison population and is expected to increase in the coming years—this poses challenges in our justice system as the courts deal with backlogs, and activity for those remanded are restricted in prison.

Prisoner population—2013–2023 (quarterly)

Concerns persist about the disparity between Māori and non-Māori in the justice system, as Māori are imprisoned at around seven times the rate of non-Māori, a disparity which slightly increased in the past year. There have been sustained declines in recidivism levels for both Māori and non-Māori over the last five years which have continued in 2023, indicating a decrease in reoffending, although there is still significant room for improvement.

The escalating levels of crime, victims, family harm incidents and the prison population—combined with increased court workload—underscore the urgent need for significant improvements in the justice system.

Imprisonment rates per 1000 for adult population (18 years old and over)—2013–2023


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