MOJ Survey to determine why later guilty pleas are occuring

Workload in the criminal jurisdiction of the District Court has been increasing since 2015 despite fewer cases entering the courts.

Data analysis by the Ministry of Justice has identified that later guilty pleas is the primary driver for this workload increase. Each year more and more defendants are waiting later in the court process before pleading guilty. In 2015 60% of defendants who had a Category 3 charge pled guilty in the admin stage, in 2020 this had reduced to 50%. This is leading to more court events per case which is driving up the workload for judges, prosecutors, registry staff, and defence counsel.

While data analysis has been able to identify ‘what’ is happening, it can’t explain the behavioural ‘why’ it is happening later in the court process than it used to.   This is where the Ministry is looking to the profession to help by asking for practitioners to complete a survey. This survey has been developed to gather insights from Judges, prosecutors, defence counsel, and registry Court staff.

 The survey will take no longer than 15 minutes to complete depending on your responses.  The survey closes 10 a.m. on Tuesday 14 June 2021. No personal information will be requested, all responses remain anonymous and the data gathered will not be used for any other purpose.

The Ministry says that practioners' insights will help it to understand the causes and contributors as to why guilty pleas are being entered later in the court process. It says that "... the right of a defendant to enter a plea before or at their trial is not in question, we are just trying to understand why it is happening later in their court process than it used to."

This survey is only one activity that the Ministry will use in its study of this issue. It is also using focus groups and conducting further data analysis to identify contributing factors.  If practitioners have any questions, they can contact Karline de Boer, Research Co-ordinator, Ministry of Justice, Karline.DeBoer@justice.govt.nz  

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