s 27 of the Sentencing Act 2002 legislates cultural reports for sentencing. This means that an offender may request court to hear person on personal, family, whānau, community, and cultural background of offender.
If you are facing criminal charges and have entered a guilty plea or have been found guilty, then your matter will progress to the pre-sentence stage. This is typically when cultural reports are sought by defence counsel. To do so any earlier would be premature. There is, however, one exception - you can get a cultural report for sentence indication but it is not essential at this point in time.
In most cases, your lawyer will seek a report on your behalf. However, you can contact us directly to request a report and we will liaise with your lawyer to start the process for you. Your whānau can also contact us on your behalf to request a cultural report and we will liaise with you and your lawyer to see if a cultural report will be appropriate for you. If you are in custody, you can also ask your Case Manager or any Corrections Officer to contact us on your behalf to start the process for you.
If you have Legal Aid for your criminal matters, your lawyer can request funding for a cultural report from Legal Aid. However, not all requests are approved. We undertake reports at a lower rate for Legally Aided defendants.
The purpose of a cultural report is to put more background information before the Court that helps the Court understand who you are and more importantly, any background factors that have caused you to offend. With more information about you, the Court is able to make a more informed decision about what your sentence should be. A cultural report can also help with restorative processes and culturally appropriate programmes.
In most cases, the answer is yes. The Court is very aware of the impact of a range of background factors that have contributed to a person's life path and offending. Your sentence can be reduced if the Court can be persuaded that your background is causative of your offending.
A good cultural report will present information about you that is relevant to your offending and demonstrates a link between that relevant information and your offending. For example, if you have a substance abuse disorder and you burgle houses to steal items that you can then sell to buy drugs to maintain your addiction, that would be considered a causal link between your background and your offending. The Court will take this into consideration when sentencing you, alongside all the other information that has been put forward about your matter (e.g. your history of offending, your efforts to rehabilitate, your remorse, any attempts to make amends for your offending).
A cultural report that simply talks about your background without drawing any links between that background and your offending is less likely to have a significant impact on your sentencing outcome. Finding a skilled cultural report writer with a proven track record is your best option. Don't be afraid to ask a report writer about the outcomes they have achieved as a report writer. Also ask them about any achievements they have attained in the higher courts (High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court). This will give you a good indication of what level they are at as a report writer. Lawyers will be very specific about who they use for cultural reports in the higher Courts.
This is often the number one question of every defendant. We get it. It's all about the discount when you're the one being sentenced. Often factors contained within a cultural report can overlap with other background factors, including youth, rehabilitation and remorse. Discounts generally can range from 5% to 30% and global discounts can apply as well.
Yes, this is always a possibility. However, the Court of Appeal have ruled that this is less likely if a cultural report provides a credible account of background factors.