Cultural Reports NZ - Information for Defendants

Over the last few years, we have encountered numerous questions about cultural reports that have made us realise there are some myths out there.  This page will hopefully dispel some of those myths for you.


Are cultural reports only for Māori?

No, absolutely not, but that's what we specialise in. 
Legislation does not discriminate.  The Sentencing Act 2002 applies equally to everyone who comes before the Court on criminal charges.  That means s 27, which deals specifically with cultural reports, applies equally to everyone who comes before the Court on criminal charges. However, there are some background factors unique to Māori alone (such as the impact of colonisation on Māori).  Similarly, there are also factors unique to other cultures, which may be brought before the Court if they are shown to be causative of the offending. 
Click here to read an example.  

What are cultural reports?

s 27 of the Sentencing Act states that an offender may request court to hear person on personal, family, whānau, community, and cultural background of offender.  Cultural reports are about putting more information before the Court about your background.  You can have a person speak about your background or you can have us write about your background.  Either way, it's about showing the Court that there are factors in your background that have caused you to offend.  We can also address culturally appropriate ways that either have been or could be used to resolve issues relating to your offending and victims, as well as culturally appropriate support available in the community to prevent offending.

Are cultural reports about making your life sound as bad as possible?

No, not at all.  A skilled report writer will be very effective in engaging you and unpacking your narrative and analysing the information you provide in relation to your offending.  They will also be very skilled in making you feel comfortable enough to share your truth, so you won't feel like you have to make up any stories.  A cultural report will only be as good as the information you are willing to share.

Can I refuse to attend my cultural report interview?

Yes, you can. We have had this happen a few times, usually because the times we have booked to do interviews clash with 'yard time'.  We appreciate this time is precious for men and women in custody.  However, sacrificing this time is to your own advantage.  It is in your best interests to engage with your cultural report writer, otherwise you are likely to have even more 'yard time' without a cultural report.

Can I only get one cultural report?

Technically, the answer is no.  In the same way that the Sentencing Act 2002 applies every time you come before the Court to be sentenced, so too does 
s 27.  That means a cultural report may be relevant on a number of different sentencings.  If you are a recidivist offender, we may be able to help by updating a previous report if it is applicable to your new offending.  

Should I save my cultural report for a big one?

We have encountered this one a few times.  The short answer is no.  The long answer is that if you are planning on needing a report for a more serious matter, you probably have a number of issues that need to be addressed.  This makes a cultural report even more important as a cultural report can help shed some light on some of those issues as well as provide some guidance by navigating some rehabilitative pathways. 

Do you interview my whānau?

Ideally, we will have whānau input for your report.  This is about understanding the broader whānau context of your background and the relevance to your offending.

Do you tell whānau what I share with you?

We are very careful not to disclose information that has been shared with us in confidence by a defendant.  Sometimes a defendant is sharing information with us that their whānau are unaware of.  For us, the whānau input is more about gathering their perspective on your background and what they believe to be the causes of your offending.