Earlier this week, I had the privilege to go to the High Court in Central Auckland and observe a murder trial. Because of my tight schedules, I was only able to stay for a short period of time. Nevertheless, it was a fantastic experience and I learned many things about court procedures and criminal justice system in New Zealand.
According to the Journalist’s Resource (JR) (2011), a study conducted by Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Centre in the USA, covering court trials is among the most important tasks for journalists. This may be due to the fact that “coverage of the courts fulfills part of the watchdog function of the media” (JR, 2011, par. 1). Furthermore, what I learned from my court visit was that there is a significant amount of public interest, particularly with heavy criminal cases.
The criminal justice system was easy to understand. According to the New Zealand Ministry of Justice (NZMJ) (2015), under the Bill of Rights Act 1990, a person charged with an alleged crime can assume innocence until proven guilty. That person is then given a list of rights, including the right to consult with a lawyer. The next step is for the police to interview the person and warn him/her anything he/she says will be written and used for evidence should the case proceeds. Lastly, the police may or may not press charges depending on the interview and on the circumstantial evidence.
Overall, it was a great opportunity and I wished I stayed a little while to observe the court setting in depth.
Journalist’s Resource (2011). Retrieved May 1, 2015 from http://journalistsresource.org/syllabi/syllabus-legal-reporting#
The New Zealand Ministry of Justice (2015). Civic Educations. Retrieved May 1, 2015 from http://www.justice.govt.nz/services/access-to-justice/civics-education-1/the-criminal-justice-system/the-crime