Crimes Act 1961

Last updated

Crimes Act
Coat of arms of New Zealand.svg
New Zealand Parliament
An Act to consolidate and amend the Crimes Act 1908 and certain other enactments of the Parliament of New Zealand relating to crimes and other offences
Date of royal assent 1 November 1961
Date commenced1 January 1962
Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007
Crimes Amendment Act (No 2) 2008
Related legislation
Status: Current legislation

The Crimes Act 1961 is an Act of the Parliament of New Zealand that forms a leading part of the criminal law in New Zealand. It repeals the Crimes Act 1908, [1] itself a successor of the Criminal Code Act 1893,[ citation needed ] and partially codifies the criminal law in New Zealand.[ citation needed ] Most crimes in New Zealand are created by the Crimes Act, but some are created elsewhere.[ where? ] All common law offences are abolished by section 9, as are all offences against Acts of the British Parliaments, [2] but section 20 saves the old common law defences where they are not specifically altered. [3]

An act of parliament, also called primary legislation, are statutes passed by a parliament (legislature). Act of the Oireachtas is an equivalent term used in the Republic of Ireland where the legislature is commonly known by its Irish name, Oireachtas. It is also comparable to an Act of Congress in the United States.

Criminal law is the body of law that relates to crime. It proscribes conduct perceived as threatening, harmful, or otherwise endangering to the property, health, safety, and moral welfare of people inclusive of one's self. Most criminal law is established by statute, which is to say that the laws are enacted by a legislature. Criminal law includes the punishment and rehabilitation of people who violate such laws. Criminal law varies according to jurisdiction, and differs from civil law, where emphasis is more on dispute resolution and victim compensation, rather than on punishment or rehabilitation. Criminal procedure is a formalized official activity that authenticates the fact of commission of a crime and authorizes punitive or rehabilitative treatment of the offender.


The Act is administered by the Ministry of Justice.[ citation needed ]

A Ministry of Justice is a common type of government department that serves as a justice ministry.

Punishments (Part 2)

Section 14 of the Crimes Act 1961 allowed death sentences. However, due to growing general public opposition to the death penalty, reformist New Zealand National Party Minister of Justice Ralph Hanan and other National MPs exercised a conscience vote and voted with the abolitionist New Zealand Labour Party to forbid judges passing sentence of death other than in cases of treason.[ citation needed ] That was the functional abolition in New Zealand, with no one executed after this date. In 1989, the death penalty was formally abolished by the Fourth Labour Government.[ citation needed ]

Capital punishment in New Zealand first appeared in a codified form when New Zealand became a British colony in 1840, and it was first employed in 1842. Capital punishment was last used in 1957, abolished for murder in 1961, and abolished for all crimes, including treason, in 1989. During the period that it was in effect, 85 people were executed.

New Zealand National Party Major New Zealand political party

The New Zealand National Party, shortened to National or the Nats, is a centre-right political party in New Zealand. It is one of two major parties that dominate contemporary New Zealand politics, alongside its traditional rival, the New Zealand Labour Party.

Ralph Hanan New Zealand politician

Josiah Ralph Hanan, known as Ralph Hanan, was a New Zealand politician of the National Party. He was Mayor of Invercargill and then represented the Invercargill electorate in Parliament, following in his uncle Josiah Hanan's footsteps. He served in World War II and his injuries ultimately caused his death at age 60. He is best remembered for the abolition of the death penalty, which had been suspended by the Labour Party, but which National was to reintroduce. As Minister of Justice, it was Hanan's role to introduce the legislation to Parliament, but he convinced enough of his party colleagues to vote with the opposition and thus abolished the death penalty in New Zealand.

Matters of justification or excuse (Part 3)

Includes infancy, insanity, compulsion, ignorance of law, sentence or process, arrest, use of force, breach of the peace, defence against assault, defence of property, peaceable entry, powers of discipline, surgical procedures, and other general provisions.[ further explanation needed ]

Sections 21 and 22 establish the defence of infancy. Children aged under 10 years old are assumed incapable of committing a crime and cannot be charged with any crime. Children aged between 10 and 13 years inclusive have the rebuttable presumption of incapacity to commit a crime; they cannot be charged unless the prosecution can prove the child knew what they were doing was a criminal offence.

Both in common law and in civil law, a rebuttable presumption is an assumption made by a court that is taken to be true unless someone comes forward to contest it and prove otherwise. For example, a defendant in a criminal case is presumed innocent until proved guilty. A rebuttable presumption is often associated with prima facie evidence.

Sections 50 and 169 dealt with the provocation defence which mitigated fatal assaults to the lesser charge and penalty due to manslaughter, rather than murder. It was abolished through multipartisan consent in 2009, with the exception of the ACT New Zealand party.[ citation needed ]

Manslaughter is a common law legal term for homicide considered by law as less culpable than murder. The distinction between murder and manslaughter is sometimes said to have first been made by the ancient Athenian lawmaker Draco in the 7th century BCE.

Murder Unlawful killing of a human with malice aforethought

Murder is the unlawful killing of another human without justification or valid excuse, especially the unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought. This state of mind may, depending upon the jurisdiction, distinguish murder from other forms of unlawful homicide, such as manslaughter. Manslaughter is a killing committed in the absence of malice, brought about by reasonable provocation, or diminished capacity. Involuntary manslaughter, where it is recognized, is a killing that lacks all but the most attenuated guilty intent, recklessness.

ACT New Zealand New Zealand political party

ACT New Zealand, usually known as ACT, is a right-wing, classical-liberal political party in New Zealand. According to former party leader Rodney Hide, ACT stands for "individual freedom, personal responsibility, doing the best for our natural environment and for smaller, smarter government in its goals of a prosperous economy, a strong society, and a quality of life that is the envy of the world".

The Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 abolished Section 59 of the Crimes Act, which had previously allowed parental corporal punishment of children, despite opposition from religious social conservatives and others.[ citation needed ]

Crimes against public order (Part 5)

Includes treason and other crimes against the Queen and the State; offence of oath to commit offence; unlawful assemblies, riots, and breaches of the peace; piracy; slave dealing; participation in criminal gang; and smuggling and trafficking in people.[ further explanation needed ]

Section(s) of ActANZSOC codeOffenceMaximum penalty (imprisonment)
73–75 Treason
– conspiracy or attempt
Life imprisonment (mandatory)
14 years
77 Mutiny 10 years
78 Espionage 14 years
791559 Sabotage 10 years
871313 Riot 2 years
92–941559 Piracy 14 years
980521 Dealing in slaves 14 years
98AParticipation in organised criminal group[ definition needed ][ further explanation needed ]10 years
98C Smuggling migrants 20 years

Crimes affecting the administration of law and justice (Part 6)

Includes bribery and corruption; contravention of statute; misleading justice; and escapes and rescues

Section(s) of ActANZSOC codeOffenceMaximum penalty (imprisonment)
101 Bribery of judicial officer7 years
102Corruption and bribery of Minister of the Crown
– Ministers receiving bribes
– people giving bribes

14 years
7 years
103Corruption and bribery of Member of Parliament 7 years
1041542Corruption and bribery of law enforcement officer7 years
1091561 Perjury 7 to 14 years
1101561 False oaths 5 years
1111561 False statements and declarations 3 years
1191511 Breaking prison 7 years

Crimes against religion, morality and public welfare (Part 7)

Includes crimes against religion; crimes against morality and decency; sexual crimes; sexual offences outside New Zealand; and crimes against public welfare.

Section(s) of ActANZSOC codeOffenceMaximum penalty (imprisonment)
123 Blasphemy 1 year
128–128B0311Sexual violation[ definition needed ] (incl. rape)20 years
1290311Attempted[ definition needed ] sexual violation, assault with intent to commit sexual violation10 years
1300311 Incest 10 years
1310311Sexual conduct[ definition needed ] with dependent family member[ definition needed ]
– sexual connection
– attempted sexual connection
– indecent act

7 years
7 years
3 years
131B0321Meeting young person[ definition needed ] following sexual grooming[ definition needed ], etc.7 years
1320311Sexual conduct with a child under 12
– sexual connection
– attempted sexual connection
– indecent act

14 years
10 years
10 years
1340311Sexual conduct with a young person under 16
– sexual connection
– attempted sexual connection
– indecent act

10 years
10 years
7 years
1350312Indecent assault[ definition needed ]7 years
1431325 Bestiality 7 years
144ASexual conduct with children and young people outside New Zealandas per sections 132 and 134
144C0321Organising or promoting child sex tours[ definition needed ]7 years
150Misconduct in respect to human remains (illegal exhumation, necrophilia)2 years

Section 123 of the Crimes Act deals with blasphemy. Unlike the United Kingdom, New Zealand has not abolished this offence. In practice, charges can only be brought through permission of the New Zealand Solicitor-General, which is usually not forthcoming,[ citation needed ] given modern religious pluralism and free speech sensibilities.

The Crimes Amendment Act (No 3) 1985[ citation needed ] (commenced 1 February 1986) criminalised marital rape and added the offence of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection, criminalising female-on-male sexual violation and expanding sexual violation to include anal and oral intercourse.

The Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986 amended the Crimes Act, allowing for consensual homosexual relationships between men.

The Crimes Amendment Act 2005[ citation needed ] (commenced 20 July 2005) changed made most sexual offences gender-neutral. This closed a legal loophole which prevented adult females from being convicted of sexual offending against boys under 16.

Section 144A of the Crimes Act deals with New Zealand citizens and ordinary residents that commit acts of child sexual abuse in overseas jurisdictions through child sex tourism. It applies existing prohibitions against sexual connection and indecent acts with children under twelve and young people to children within overseas jurisdictions. Under Section 144C, it is also illegal to promote child sex tourism overseas from New Zealand.

In 2003, the Prostitution Law Reform Act 2003 decriminalised sex work, removing sections 147-149A of the Crimes Act, which had formerly prohibited most forms of prostitution in New Zealand through maintaining criminal penalties against soliciting, living off the proceeds of sex work, brothel-keeping and managing sex workers.

Crimes against the person (Part 8)

Includes duties tending to the preservation of life; homicide; murder and manslaughter; abortion; assaults and injuries to the person; female genital mutilation; bigamy and feigned marriage; and abduction and kidnapping.

Section(s) of ActANZSOC[ citation needed ] codeOffenceMaximum penalty (imprisonment)
1720111[ citation needed ] Murder Life imprisonment
1730121 Attempt to murder 14 years
1750100 Conspiracy to murder 10 years
1770131 Manslaughter Life imprisonment
1780131 Infanticide 3 years
1790131Aiding and abetting suicide14 years
1820131Killing unborn child14 years
1831695Procuring abortion14 years
1880211, 0212 Wounding with intent 7 to 14 years
1890211, 0212 Injuring with intent 5 to 10 years
1920211, 0212 Aggravated assault 3 years
1960213Common assault1 year
1980299Discharging firearm or doing dangerous act with intent7 to 14 years
198A0211, 0212Using any firearm against law enforcement officer, etc.10 to 17 years
198B0211, 0212Commission of crime with firearm10 years
204A-204B Female genital mutilation and ancillary offences7 years
2061329 Bigamy 2 to 14 years
2080511 Abduction for purposes of marriage or sexual connection14 years
2090511 Kidnapping 14 years

The Sentencing Act 2002[ citation needed ] changed the penalty for murder from mandatory life imprisonment to presumptive life imprisonment; sentencing judges now may waive the mandatory life imprisonment requirement and give a lesser sentence in exceptional ("manifestly unjust") circumstances.

There have been two attempts thus far to introduce regulated euthanasia in New Zealand through abolition of Section 179 of the Crimes Act 1961 and replacement with a liberalised regulatory regime, in 1995 and 2003. Both failed.[ citation needed ]

Section 187A of the Crimes Act was inserted in 1978.[ citation needed ] It provides access criteria for abortion in New Zealand and is the subject of perennial debates between the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (pro-choice) and the New Zealand right-to-life movement over greater restriction, maintenance and complete decriminalisation of abortion.[ citation needed ]

Section 204A outlaws female genital mutilation within New Zealand, while Section 204B deals with ancillary and related offences.[ citation needed ]

Crimes against rights of property (Part 10)

Section(s) of ActANZSOC codeOffenceMaximum penalty (imprisonment)
220–2230811, 0813, 0821, 0823, 0829, 0991 Theft or stealing
– by persons in special relationship
– value $1001 or more
– value $501 to $1000
– value up to $500

7 years
7 years
1 year
3 months
2310711 Burglary 10 years
2340612 Robbery 10 years
2430831 Money laundering 5 to 7 years
2500499 Damaging or interfering with computer system 7 to 10 years
2560921, 0922 Forgery 3 to 10 years
2660921 Counterfeiting 7 years
2671211 Arson 7 to 14 years

Threatening, conspiring, and attempting to commit offences (Part 11)

Section(s) of ActANZSOC codeOffenceMaximum penalty (imprisonment)
3060532Threatening to kill or do grievous bodily harm7 years
310 Conspiring to commit offence (where not explicitly stated elsewhere)7 years or the maximum imprisonment for the crime, whichever is less
312 Accessory after the fact to crime (where not explicitly stated elsewhere)
– to crimes punishable by life imprisonment
– to all other crimes

7 years
5 years or half the maximum imprisonment for the crime, whichever is less

See also

Related Research Articles

Treason Crime against ones sovereign or nation

In law, treason is criminal disloyalty to the state. It is a crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's nation or sovereign. This usually includes things such as participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state. A person who commits treason is known in law as a traitor.

Child sex tourism (CST) is tourism for the purpose of engaging in the prostitution of children, which is commercially facilitated child sexual abuse. The definition of child in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is "every human being below the age of 18 years". Child sex tourism results in both mental and physical consequences for the exploited children, which may include sexually transmitted infections, "drug addiction, pregnancy, malnutrition, social ostracism, and possibly death", according to the State Department of the United States. Child sex tourism, part of the multibillion-dollar global sex tourism industry, is a form of child prostitution within the wider issue of commercial sexual exploitation of children. Child sex tourism victimizes approximately 2 million children around the world. The children who perform as prostitutes in the child sex tourism trade often have been lured or abducted into sexual slavery.

Sexual Offences Act 2003

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Misprision of treason is an offence found in many common law jurisdictions around the world, having been inherited from English law. It is committed by someone who knows a treason is being or is about to be committed but does not report it to a proper authority.

Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885

The Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, or "An Act to make further provision for the Protection of Women and Girls, the suppression of brothels, and other purposes", was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the latest in a 25-year series of legislation in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland beginning with the Offences against the Person Act 1861 that raised the age of consent and delineated the penalties for sexual offences against women and minors. It also strengthened existing legislation against prostitution and recriminalised male homosexuality. This act was also notable for the circumstances of its passage in Parliament.

Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, commonly known as the Labouchere Amendment, made "gross indecency" a crime in the United Kingdom. In practice, the law was used broadly to prosecute male homosexuals where actual sodomy could not be proven. The penalty of life imprisonment for sodomy was also so harsh that successful prosecutions were rare. The new law was much more enforceable. It was also meant to raise the age of consent for heterosexual intercourse. Section 11 was repealed and re-enacted by section 13 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956, which in turn was repealed by the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which partially decriminalized homosexual behaviour.

The legal age of consent for sexual activity varies by jurisdiction across Asia, from age 12 to 21 years of age. The specific activity engaged in or the gender of its participants can also be affected by the law. Below is a discussion of the various laws dealing with this subject. The highlighted age refers to an age at or above which an individual can engage in unfettered sexual relations with another who is also at or above that age. Other variables, such as homosexual relations or close in age exceptions, may exist, and are noted when relevant, for example in Indonesia.

The ages of consent for sexual activity vary by jurisdiction across Australia, New Zealand and Oceania, ranging from age 15 to age 18. The specific activity engaged in or the gender of its participants can also be affected by the law. Below is a discussion of the various laws dealing with this subject. The highlighted age refers to an age at or above which an individual can engage in unfettered sexual relations with another who is also at or above that age. Close in age exceptions may exist and are noted when relevant. In Vanuatu the homosexual age of consent is set higher at 18, while the heterosexual age of consent is 15. Same sex sexual activity is illegal at any age for males in Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu; it is outlawed for both men and women in the Solomon Islands. In all other places the age of consent is equal, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.

Ages of consent in Europe

The ages of consent vary by jurisdiction across Europe. The ages of consent are currently set between 14 and 18. The vast majority of countries set their ages in the range of 14 to 16; only four countries, Cyprus (17), Ireland (17), Turkey (18) and Vatican City (18), do not fit into this pattern. The laws can also stipulate the specific activities that are permitted or differentially specify the age at which a given sex can participate. Below is a discussion of the various laws dealing with this subject. The highlighted age is that at which, or above which, an individual can engage in unfettered sexual relations with another who is also at or above that age. In 2014, the self-declared state of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus lifted the ban on sodomy, decriminalizing homosexual sex. All jurisdictions in Europe have an equal and gender-neutral age limit.

Rape is a type of sexual assault initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, or where the person is under threat or manipulation, or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. It is the name of a statutory crime in jurisdictions such as England and Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, California, and New York, and is a legal term of art used in the definition of the offence of sexual violation in New Zealand.

Wasting police time is listed as a criminal offence in many Commonwealth countries.

Laws regarding incest vary considerably between jurisdictions, and depend on the type of sexual activity and the nature of the family relationship of the parties involved, as well as the age and sex of the parties. Besides legal prohibitions, at least some forms of incest are also socially taboo or frowned upon in most cultures around the world.

The Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 (c.39) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed to consolidate certain enactments creating offences and relating to the criminal law of Scotland.

A sodomy law is a law that defines certain sexual acts as crimes. The precise sexual acts meant by the term sodomy are rarely spelled out in the law, but are typically understood by courts to include any sexual act deemed to be "unnatural" or immoral. Sodomy typically includes anal sex, oral sex, and bestiality. In practice, sodomy laws have rarely been enforced against heterosexual couples, and have mostly been used to target homosexuals.

Crime in New Zealand encompasses criminal law, crime statistics, the nature and characteristics of crime, sentencing, punishment, and public perceptions of crime. New Zealand criminal law has its origins in English criminal law, which was codified into statute by the New Zealand parliament in 1893. Although New Zealand remains a common law jurisdiction, all criminal offences and their penalties are codified in New Zealand statutes.

Prostitution in Northern Ireland is governed by the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act 2015, which makes it illegal to pay for sex in Northern Ireland. Prior to the act coming into effect, prostitution in Northern Ireland was regulated by the same or similar laws to those in England and Wales, as it is elsewhere in the United Kingdom. At that time, prostitution in Northern Ireland was legal subject to a number of restraints which controlled certain activities associated with prostitution, such as soliciting, procuring, living on the proceeds of prostitution (pimping), exploitation of prostitutes, under-age prostitution, and keeping a brothel. However, devolution provided the opportunity for separate legislation in Northern Ireland.

Prostitution law

Prostitution law varies widely from country to country, and between jurisdictions within a country. At one extreme, prostitution or sex work is legal in some places and regarded as a profession, while at the other extreme, it is a crime punishable by death in some other places.

Rape is a statutory offence in England and Wales. According to the law, rape occurs when a man penetrates another person with his penis without the consent of the person being penetrated. If a victim is forcefully penetrated with an object, this is classed as "Assault by Penetration". If the victim is forcefully made to penetrate another, the act can be prosecuted as "Causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent" . The offence is created by section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003:

Sexual Offences Act, 1957

The Sexual Offences Act, 1957 is an act of the Parliament of South Africa which, in its current form, prohibits prostitution, brothel-keeping and procuring, and other activities related to prostitution. Before the law relating to sex offences was consolidated and revised by the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2007, it also prohibited various other sex offences, including sex with children under the age of consent and sex with the mentally incompetent. As the Immorality Act it was infamous for prohibiting sex between a white person and a person of another race, until that prohibition was removed by a 1985 amendment.

Human trafficking in New Zealand

Human trafficking is a crime in New Zealand under Section 98D of the Crimes Act 1961. In 2002, the New Zealand Government ratified the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, a protocol to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC). New Zealand participates in efforts to combat human trafficking in the Asia-Pacific region, and has a leadership role in the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Human Trafficking and related Transnational Crime.


  1. "Crimes Act 1961 No 43 (as at 12 March 2019), Public Act – New Zealand Legislation". Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  2. "Crimes Act 1961 No 43 (as at 12 March 2019), Public Act – New Zealand Legislation". Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  3. "Crimes Act 1961 No 43 (as at 12 March 2019), Public Act – New Zealand Legislation". Retrieved 31 March 2019.