Once a person has been convicted of an offence, a judge may* ask a probation officer to provide more information to inform the sentencing decision.
The probation officer may:
- interview the person
- make enquiries with their whānau/family, friends and others
- gather information from agencies such as the police and Corrections.
After the probation officer has all the information, they will take into account the person's needs, and what the law says about sentencing for the particular offence, then make a recommendation on what the most appropriate sentence would be. This is the pre-sentence or Provision of Advice to Courts (PAC) report.
*The court may also sentence a person on the same day they are convicted.
How the pre-sentence report helps sentencing
The pre-sentence report assists the judge to make a fully informed and appropriate decision about which sentence a person should receive and what support they need. Often these reports will also contain information about the suitability of electronic monitoring to be used in the final sentencing outcome.
Probation officers are often in court to provide immediate advice and information for sentencing, or to help make a decision on whether to remand a person.
If there’s a victim, and if requested by the judge, probation officers also provide reparation reports on how the person who has offended can make amends to the victim.
The sentence recommendation in the report may include sentence conditions that keep the community safe and address the person's rehabilitation needs.
Who can receive the pre-sentence report
The pre-sentence report can be given to the court, the person who has offended, their lawyer, and the prosecution. The judge considers the report, along with other information about the person, and sentences them.
The sentencing laws state that people who have been convicted of an offence with an identifiable victim should have the opportunity to make amends to the victim.
The court can request a probation officer to complete a reparation report before a person is sentenced. The probation officer finds out if they are willing and able to make reparation.
The reparation report includes information on the value of the loss or harm caused (including physical or emotional harm) and any consequential damage.
The court must take into account the financial circumstances of the person who has offended and make a recommendation on what they should pay in reparation.
Pre-sentence reports and whānau/family
Before your whānau/family member is sentenced, the judge might ask for a pre-sentence or PAC report, to help them understand why they offended, if they are sorry about their behaviour and understand how it has hurt others, how likely they are (or not) to break the law again, and what help they need to build their mana and wellbeing and ensure they do not offend in the future.
A probation officer will interview your whānau/family member and ask to speak to you too, before giving a report to the court.
A person can ask the court to consider them for restorative justice before they are sentenced, by speaking to their lawyer, a probation officer or a police officer. The outcome will be shared with the sentencing judge.
Restorative justice is only available to people who take full responsibility for their offending and want to make amends with anyone they have harmed.
Restorative justice involves a person who has caused harm meeting with those they have hurt. This is with the goal of repairing harm and restoring mana.
The meeting/wānanga is led by a skilled facilitator, is carefully planned and takes place in a safe and supportive space. It gives a person who has offended the chance to acknowledge the harm they have caused, to offer an apology or agree to do something to help put right what has happened. Participation is voluntary and will only go ahead if a person has admitted to an offence, and if everyone agrees to be involved and feels safe.
A person can also access restorative justice after they have been sentenced by speaking to their case manager.
Find more information about restorative justice and Ministry of Justice and Victim Support websites.
The judge might also want to know about a person's cultural background, and ask for a cultural (“section 27”) report. A person's lawyer could also ask the judge to order this report for them. Preparing this report takes time and a copy would be provided to your whānau/family member and their lawyer.
The judge might also want to know about a person's health and ask for an assessment report from a psychologist or psychiatrist before they are sentenced.