Crimes Act 1961

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For a list of Acts in other countries, see Crimes Act.
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 commenced 1 January 1962
Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007
Crimes Amendment Act (No 2) 2008
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, itself a successor of the Criminal Code Act 1893, and partially codifies the criminal law in New Zealand. Most crimes in New Zealand are created by the Crimes Act, but some are created elsewhere. All common law offences are abolished by section 9, as are all offences against Acts of the British Parliaments, but section 20 saves the old common law defences where they are not specifically altered.

The Act is administered by the Ministry of Justice.

Scheme of the act[edit]

  • Preliminary provisions (sections 1 to 4): Bill title, date of commencement, and interpretation.
  • Part 1 (sections 5 to 12): Jurisdiction
  • Part 2 (sections 13 to 19): Punishments – includes death (repealed in 1989), imprisonment, putting under bond (repealed 1985), and fine
  • Part 3 (sections 20 to 65): Matters of justification or excuse – 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.
  • Part 4 (sections 66 to 72): Parties to the commission of offences
  • Part 5 (sections 73 to 98F): Crimes against public order – 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.
  • Part 6 (sections 99 to 122): Crimes affecting the administration of law and justice – includes bribery and corruption; contravention of statute; misleading justice; and escapes and rescues
  • Part 7 (sections 123 to 150): Crimes against religion, morality, and public welfare – includes crimes against religion; crimes against morality and decency; sexual crimes; sexual offences outside New Zealand; and crimes against public welfare.
  • Part 8 (sections 150A to 210A): Crimes against the person – 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.
  • Part 9 (sections 211 to 216): Crimes against reputation. This part was repealed by the Defamation Act 1992.
  • Part 9A (sections 216A to 216N): Crimes against personal privacy

Selected offences and maximum penalties[edit]

Section(s) of Act Offence Maximum penalty (imprisonment)
73–75 Treason
-- conspiracy or attempt
Life imprisonment
14 years
77 Mutiny 10 years
78 Espionage 14 years
79 Sabotage 10 years
87 Riot 2 years
92–94 Piracy 14 years
98 Dealing in slaves 14 years
98A Participation in organised criminal group 10 years
98C Smuggling migrants 20 years
108–109 Perjury 7 to 14 years
119 Breaking prison 7 years
123 Blasphemy 1 year
128–128B Sexual violation (incl. rape) 20 years
130 Incest 10 years
131 Sexual conduct with dependent family member
-- sexual connection
-- attempted sexual connection
-- indecent act

7 years
7 years
3 years
131B Meeting young person following sexual grooming, etc. 7 years
132 Sexual conduct with a child under 12
-- sexual connection
-- attempted sexual connection
-- indecent act

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

10 years
10 years
7 years
135 Indecent assault 7 years
143 Bestiality 7 years
144A Sexual conduct with children and young people outside New Zealand as per sections 132 and 134
144C Organising or promoting child sex tours 7 years
150 Misconduct in respect to human remains (illegal exhumation, necrophilia) 2 years
168–169, 172 Murder Life imprisonment
171, 177 Manslaughter Life imprisonment
178 Infanticide 3 years
179 Aiding and abetting suicide (euthanasia) 14 years
182 Killing unborn child 14 years
188 Wounding with intent 7 to 14 years
192 Aggravated assault 3 years
198 Discharging firearm or doing dangerous act with intent 7 to 14 years
198B Commission of crime with firearm 10 years
204A-204B Female genital mutilation and ancillary offences 7 years
206 Bigamy 2 to 14 years
220–223 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
231 Burglary 10 years
234 Robbery 10 years
243 Money laundering 5 to 7 years
250 Damaging or interfering with computer system 7 to 10 years
256 Forgery 3 to 10 years
266 Counterfeiting 7 years
267 Arson 7 to 14 years
306 Threatening to kill or do grievous bodily harm 7 years
312 Accessory after the fact to crime
-- to crimes punishable by life imprisonment
-- to crimes punishable by 10 years or more imprisonment
-- to all other crimes

7 years
5 years
half the maximum imprisonment for the crime

Amendments and failed amendments[edit]

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. 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.

Section 187A of the Crimes Act was inserted in 1978. 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 anti-abortion movement over greater restriction, maintenance and complete decriminalisation of abortion.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]