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Help for American Victims of Crime in New Zealand

Help for American Victims of Crime in New Zealand

Please click on this link to read the Department of State’s brochure for victims of crime.

 April 18, 2011 

If you are the victim of a crime in a foreign country, it can be a devastating and traumatic experience.  While no one can undo the emotional trauma, physical injury, or financial loss you may have experienced, the U.S. Consulate in Auckland, New Zealand is ready to help.  We are very concerned about violent crimes committed against U.S. citizens in New Zealand.  We will help you in managing the practical consequences of being a crime victim, and provide you with information about contacting the local criminal justice system, as well as other resources for crime victims abroad and in the United States.  This office can help you in finding appropriate medical care, contacting family or friends on your behalf, and explaining how funds can be transferred.  We can also help you to better understand the criminal justice system in New Zealand, which is very different from the system in the United States.

The information included in this guide about legal requirements in New Zealand is provided for general informational purposes only.  The information may not be accurate or relevant for a particular case.  If you have questions about interpreting New Zealand laws, you should speak with legal counsel licensed to practice law in New Zealand.  Remember that the investigation and prosecution of crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities.  However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) may assist local authorities in certain cases of kidnapping, hostage-taking, and terrorism.

REPORTING CRIMES:  If you are injured during a criminal act, call 111 right away.  You can also report a crime or register a complaint at any police station; a friend or family member can make the report under some circumstances.  The crime does not have to be reported in the jurisdiction where the crime took place.  A statute of limitations governs some crimes and the reporting of them.  You will be given a copy of the police report, and the police and courts will provide an interpreter if required.  The Consulate cannot file a complaint on your behalf. 

In New Zealand, the police do not have a special agency to deal with victims from overseas.  If you have difficulties filing a police report with an official, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate immediately andwe may be able to help in your communications with the police.  You may need a police report to file for crime victim compensation or insurance reimbursement.  If you do decide to file a report, please send a copy to us, including your address and phone number, in case we need to contact you.  We are not authorized to act as your legal representative, prosecutor or investigator, but our office can help you track the progress of your case and let you know if there are new developments.

INVESTIGATIONS:  Many crime investigations never result in the arrest of a suspect.  The prosecuting authority is responsible for investigating a crime.  Forensic evidence will be collected as normal police procedure.  You should receive information through the officer in charge of the case, and also through court services for victims.  You should immediately report any threats, harassment, or intimidation by the accused to the officer in charge of your case.  Please note that keeping a case open without arrest is at the discretion of the investigating authorities.

ARRESTS:  If someone is arrested for an offence, the court has several options: the offender could be bailed, remanded at large, or held in custody.  You should be notified of the arrest by the police and the local Victims’ Assistance Office (see named paragraph below).  You may be required to identify the offender. 

PRETRIAL PERIOD:  The investigation authority will decide what type of prosecution will be pursued.  Depending on the type of offence, the offender can decide if she/he wants a jury trial, or trial by judge alone, and can make motions about the jurisdiction in which the case will be heard.  The police and the Crown Solicitor’s office are responsible for prosecution.  The District Court, High Court and Supreme Court have jurisdiction in criminal prosecutions.  New Zealand does have an informal “plea bargaining” practice.  Victims’ Advisors, who work within the courts, represent your interest at all times.

TRIAL:  The scheduling of a criminal trial in New Zealand can be frustratingly unpredictable, and can take a long time.  In a criminal prosecution, you would be required to return to New Zealand to testify, since submitting a written statement generally would not be enough to successfully prosecute a serious charge.  In most cases, the court hearings are open to the public, including the media, press, consular officers, family and friends.  Courts provide translation and interpreting services to witnesses who do not speak English or have a limited understanding of the local language.  A jury trial is purely the choice of the accused.  New Zealand follows traditional court room etiquette and in some ways it is more formal than in the United States.

SENTENCING:  If the accused is found guilty or pleads guilty, the sentencing would generally take place approximately one month from the conviction, allowing for Victim’s Impact and Probation Officer’s reports to be written.  You are invited to speak in the courtroom to the judge, or the victims’ advisors can submit a memorandum to the judge on your behalf. Any custodial sentence happens at the end of sentencing.  You will be notified of the transfer or release of the offender when the authorities are aware of this situation.

APPEALS:  The accused can appeal the sentence and/or conviction.  The appeal process can be lengthy.  It is not normal for you to give evidence at appeals unless the case is referred back for a re-hearing.

ATTORNEYS:  You may want to consider hiring a local attorney to help with the appropriate legal guidance. Local legal procedures are different from those in the United States.  Although our office cannot recommend specific attorneys, we can provide you with a list of attorneys who have expressed interest in representing U.S. citizens. 

VICTIM COMPENSATION IN NEW ZEALAND:  New Zealand has a national Crime Victim’s Assistance Office, and part of its duty is to co-ordinate national crime victims’ assistance within a community.  Referrals are made based on the needs of each individual case.  You can reach this office through all  local police offices, by internet or by phone.  Every district has a sub-office which usually works through the Police.  The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault hotlines include:   Preventing Domestic Violence in the home, Telephone:64 9 303 3939and the Sexual Abuse hotline, Telephone: 64 9 23 1700 both  operate 24/7.  The Victims’ Advisors only work with victims of crime within the court system and can be reached by telephone at 649 916 9400.

New Zealand has a crime victim compensation program that will reimburse you for various expenses.  The highest reimbursement consideration will be given to compensatory costs.  You can find more information through the Victim Support website

EMBASSY LOCATION:  All consular services in New Zealand, including those provided to U.S. citizens, are through the United States Consulate General in Auckland; there is no consular presence in the Embassy in Wellington. 

If you are going to live or visit New Zealand, please take the time to tell our consulate about your trip.  If you check in, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.  It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency.  Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
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You can also enroll directly with the Consulate in Auckland by using the information below.

U.S. Consulate Auckland
Level 3, Citigroup Building, 23 Customs Street East, Auckland
Telephone:649 303 2724, ext 2800 
Emergency line: 649 303 2724 ext 2900 or  Facsimile: 649 366 0870
Email: aucklandacs@state.gov 
Website: http://newzealand.usembassy.gov

SPECIAL INFORMATION FOR CASES OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND RAPE:  Physical evidence is very important in sexual assault cases, and can deteriorate as time passes.  Therefore, you should not change clothes, do not bath if possible, and have a physical exam right away.  You should take these steps even if you are unsure about whether to report the crime to police.  If you decide to pursue a prosecution at a later time, these steps help provide evidence that will assist the prosecutor with your case.  A consular officer or after-hours duty officer from the Embassy or Consulate may be able to accompany you to the medical exam.

Sexual Crimes are defined under the Crimes Act 1961 which governs all of New Zealand.  Unwanted or coercive sexual advances or sexual experience – not necessarily a police complaint – can be reported through the Sexual Abuse Line: crisisteam@sexualabusehelp.org.nz  or by calling 64 9 623 1700. 

If you agree to have forensic sexual assault examinations and the police have authorized it, medical practitioners will perform this examination.  You will be assisted to the medial practitioner’s office and a forensic sexual assault exam will involve a pelvic exam, vaginal/penile/anal swabs, head and pubic hair samples, fingernail scrapings, blood samples, saliva samples, and other relevant tests. You are always able to have a support person with you.  If the police request that you have the examination, then the authorities will pay for the exam.

If you choose to go to the police and have a medical examination, it can be a critical piece of evidence during the trial.  However, rape/sexual assault charges can be filed without an exam, particularly in the case of historical rapes. 

You should get medical attention to determine if you have been injured in any way and to discuss treatment and prevention options for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.  Morning-after medication is available, in addition to HIV prophylaxis, and treatment for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.

You will be interviewed by the officer in charge of the case.  Date Rape is treated as any other sexual violation offence, as is Spousal Rape.  Male rape falls within the definition of Sexual Violation as well.

If charges are brought, suppression orders are available to protect your identity.

A rape crisis hotline is available and all operators speak English.  If you are in eminent danger, you should call 111 and seek assistance immediately.  Sexual abuse help and counseling is available 24 hours at 649 623 1700.

SPECIAL INFORMATION FOR CASES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:  Domestic Violence is considered a crime in New Zealand.  You can get a protection/restraining order through the Family Court, and they are strictly enforced.  Contact the Police immediately if the protection/restraining order are not followed.  Domestic violence shelters are located throughout the country and their addresses and locations are confidential.  The beds will vary depending upon the type of shelters. Referrals to shelters are made along with Domestic Violence Centers.  Children will stay with their parent in the shelter.  Domestic Violence Hotlines run 24 hours and operators speak English.  The Preventing Violence 24-Hour Hotline is 050 838 4357.

Stalking is a crime in New Zealand and is an offence that can lead to imprisonment.

SPECIAL INFORMATION FOR CASES OF CHILD ABUSE:  Both the Child Youth and Family Service (CYFS) and the Police have the authority to act on allegations of child abuse.  Child abuse can be reported to the police, or the Child Youth and Family Service, strictly in confidence.  CYFS has authority to investigate child abuse allegations and remove the child if necessary.  If a U.S. citizen child were removed from the home, the child would be placed in protective care either in a foster home or a secure unit.  A child crisis team is available to assist, which would refer the child to the appropriate medical resources if required.  If a child has to give evidence in a trial, all appropriate measures are taken to protect the identity of the child.  For instance, evidence would be taken through CCTV, or screens would be put in place.  Full counseling and support is available for a child if evidence is required to be given.

SPECIAL INFORMATION FOR CASES OF KIDNAPPING:  Police investigate all criminal offences in New Zealand.  A family would be assisted by Victims Support and Police during the course of any kidnapping.

SPECIAL INFORMATION FOR CASES OF HOMICIDE: An autopsy is performed in any homicide to establish the cause of death.  Family members may be requested to help the prosecutions case by giving evidence.  All evidence collected to help the police case will be kept until the end of the prosecution and appeal time, and then it will be released to the family.  This may involve parts of the deceased’s estate.