Chapter 1

The scope of the review

1.13There are in excess of 180 Acts in the New Zealand statute book that contain imprisonable offences. To make the task more manageable, this review is restricted to those imprisonable offences contained in the main criminal statutes, namely:

1.14Limiting the review in the first instance to imprisonable offences contained in these five Acts has been purely pragmatic. A review of the whole of the statute book would have been a monumental task and would have encompassed a large number of offences that are only infrequently the subject of prosecution. Moreover, it would have required consideration of regulatory and corporate offending to which a range of different criteria might need to have been applied.

1.15However, the fact that our review to this point has been confined to the five primary criminal statutes does not mean that the exercise should stop there. Indeed, if it did so there would be a risk of creating, in effect, two maximum penalty regimes, one that used the penalty category system outlined in this paper, and the other based on the traditional ad hoc approach to maximum penalties. If the penalty category system proposed here were to be implemented, therefore, we suggest that:

1.16Although the review is confined to those offences currently subject to a maximum term of imprisonment, there is no presumption that any new recommended maximum penalty must be one of imprisonment.