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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,[1] itself a successor of the Criminal Code Act 1893,[citation needed] and partially codifies the criminal law in New Zealand.[citation needed] Most crimes in New Zealand are created by the Crimes Act, but some are created elsewhere.[where?] All common law offences are abolished by section 9, as are all offences against Acts of the British Parliaments,[2] but section 20 saves the old common law defences where they are not specifically altered.[3]

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
Royal assent1 November 1961
Commenced1 January 1962
Amended by
Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007
Crimes Amendment Act (No 2) 2008
Related legislation
Status: Current legislation

The Act is administered by the Ministry of Justice.[citation needed]


Punishments (Part 2)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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Matters of justification or excuse (Part 3)Edit

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.[further explanation needed]

Sections 21 and 22 establish the defence of infancy. Children aged under 10 years old are assumed incapable of committing a crime and cannot be charged with any crime. Children aged between 10 and 13 years inclusive have the rebuttable presumption of incapacity to commit a crime; they cannot be charged unless the prosecution can prove the child knew what they were doing was a criminal offence.

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Crimes against public order (Part 5)Edit

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.[further explanation needed]

Section(s) of Act ANZSOC code Offence Maximum penalty (imprisonment)
73–75 Treason
– conspiracy or attempt
Life imprisonment (mandatory)
14 years
77 Mutiny 10 years
78 Espionage 14 years
79 1559 Sabotage 10 years
87 1313 Riot 2 years
92–94 1559 Piracy 14 years
98 0521 Dealing in slaves 14 years
98A Participation in organised criminal group[definition needed][further explanation needed] 10 years
98C Smuggling migrants 20 years

Crimes affecting the administration of law and justice (Part 6)Edit

Includes bribery and corruption; contravention of statute; misleading justice; and escapes and rescues

Section(s) of Act ANZSOC code Offence Maximum penalty (imprisonment)
101 Bribery of judicial officer 7 years
102 Corruption and bribery of Minister of the Crown
– Ministers receiving bribes
– people giving bribes

14 years
7 years
103 Corruption and bribery of Member of Parliament 7 years
104 1542 Corruption and bribery of law enforcement officer 7 years
109 1561 Perjury 7 to 14 years
110 1561 False oaths 5 years
111 1561 False statements and declarations 3 years
119 1511 Breaking prison 7 years

Crimes against religion, morality and public welfare (Part 7)Edit

Includes crimes against religion; crimes against morality and decency; sexual crimes; sexual offences outside New Zealand; and crimes against public welfare.

Section(s) of Act ANZSOC code Offence Maximum penalty (imprisonment)
128–128B 0311 Sexual violation[definition needed] (incl. rape) 20 years
129 0311 Attempted[definition needed] sexual violation, assault with intent to commit sexual violation 10 years
130 0311 Incest 10 years
131 0311 Sexual conduct[definition needed] with dependent family member[definition needed]
– sexual connection
– attempted sexual connection
– indecent act

7 years
7 years
3 years
131B 0321 Meeting young person[definition needed] following sexual grooming[definition needed], etc. 7 years
132 0311 Sexual conduct with a child under 12
– sexual connection
– attempted sexual connection
– indecent act

14 years
10 years
10 years
134 0311 Sexual conduct with a young person under 16
– sexual connection
– attempted sexual connection
– indecent act

10 years
10 years
7 years
135 0312 Indecent assault[definition needed] 7 years
143 1325 Bestiality 7 years
144A Sexual conduct with children and young people outside New Zealand as per sections 132 and 134
144C 0321 Organising or promoting child sex tours[definition needed] 7 years
150 Misconduct in respect to human remains (illegal exhumation, necrophilia) 2 years

Section 123 of the Crimes Act dealt with blasphemy. Charges could only be brought through permission of the New Zealand Solicitor-General, which was usually not forthcoming,with no prosecutions since 1922, [4] given modern religious pluralism and free speech sensibilities.The offence of blasphemy was abolished in 2019.

The Crimes Amendment Act (No 3) 1985[citation needed] (commenced 1 February 1986) criminalised marital rape and added the offence of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection, criminalising female-on-male sexual violation and expanding sexual violation to include anal and oral intercourse.

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

The Crimes Amendment Act 2005[citation needed] (commenced 20 July 2005) changed made most sexual offences gender-neutral. This closed a legal loophole which prevented adult females from being convicted of sexual offending against boys under 16.

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.

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.

Crimes against the person (Part 8)Edit

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.

Section(s) of Act ANZSOC[citation needed] code Offence Maximum penalty (imprisonment)
172 0111[citation needed] Murder Life imprisonment
173 0121 Attempt to murder 14 years
175 0100 Conspiracy to murder 10 years
177 0131 Manslaughter Life imprisonment
178 0131 Infanticide 3 years
179 0131 Aiding and abetting suicide 14 years
182 0131 Killing unborn child 14 years
183 1695 Procuring abortion 14 years
188 0211, 0212 Wounding with intent 7 to 14 years
189 0211, 0212 Injuring with intent 5 to 10 years
192 0211, 0212 Aggravated assault 3 years
196 0213 Common assault 1 year
198 0299 Discharging firearm or doing dangerous act with intent 7 to 14 years
198A 0211, 0212 Using any firearm against law enforcement officer, etc. 10 to 17 years
198B 0211, 0212 Commission of crime with firearm 10 years
204A-204B Female genital mutilation and ancillary offences 7 years
206 1329 Bigamy 2 to 14 years
208 0511 Abduction for purposes of marriage or sexual connection 14 years
209 0511 Kidnapping 14 years

The Sentencing Act 2002[citation needed] changed the penalty for murder from mandatory life imprisonment to presumptive life imprisonment; sentencing judges now may waive the mandatory life imprisonment requirement and give a lesser sentence in exceptional ("manifestly unjust") circumstances.

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.[citation needed]

Section 187A of the Crimes Act was inserted in 1978.[citation needed] 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 right-to-life movement over greater restriction, maintenance and complete decriminalisation of abortion.[citation needed]

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

Crimes against rights of property (Part 10)Edit

Section(s) of Act ANZSOC code Offence Maximum penalty (imprisonment)
220–223 0811, 0813, 0821, 0823, 0829, 0991 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 0711 Burglary 10 years
234 0612 Robbery 10 years
243 0831 Money laundering 5 to 7 years
250 0499 Damaging or interfering with computer system 7 to 10 years
256 0921, 0922 Forgery 3 to 10 years
266 0921 Counterfeiting 7 years
267 1211 Arson 7 to 14 years

Threatening, conspiring, and attempting to commit offences (Part 11)Edit

Section(s) of Act ANZSOC code Offence Maximum penalty (imprisonment)
306 0532 Threatening to kill or do grievous bodily harm 7 years
310 Conspiring to commit offence (where not explicitly stated elsewhere) 7 years or the maximum imprisonment for the crime, whichever is less
312 Accessory after the fact to crime (where not explicitly stated elsewhere)
– to crimes punishable by life imprisonment
– to all other crimes

7 years
5 years or half the maximum imprisonment for the crime, whichever is less

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Crimes Act 1961 No 43 (as at 12 March 2019), Public Act – New Zealand Legislation". Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Crimes Act 1961 No 43 (as at 12 March 2019), Public Act – New Zealand Legislation". Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Crimes Act 1961 No 43 (as at 12 March 2019), Public Act – New Zealand Legislation". Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  4. ^ "Crimes Amendment Bill — Third Reading". Retrieved 4 July 2019.

External linksEdit