Question trails

Question trails have been adopted in New Zealand courts as a reliable and consistent means of providing juries with a logical path to follow in their deliberations. That path is a series of questions that cover the elements of the offence for which proof is required, specific to each charge being determined. The question trails also remind juries about the onus and standard of proof for each element.

Providing juries with question trails, in conjunction with the oral summing-up, is considered by our appellate courts to be best practice in criminal trials:

“They help to keep the jury focused on the technical task at hand and to ensure that they do not get distracted into prejudicial, sympathetic or other impermissible reasoning processes.”  (Rawle v R [2019] NZCA 249])

Over 140 question trails are published here. The goal in making the question trails publicly available is to promote better, more equitable and more efficient justice. In particular, it is hoped that providing public access to the trails will support:

  • transparency in court processes
  • procedural fairness and access to justice—all parties will have open access to this information, and
  • efficient justice—all parties will be assisted to focus on the elements in dispute from the outset, reducing the time of a trial and supporting a just result.

The question trails are a guide only, and the wording will be changed for every case because each case will have a different specific fact scenario. The decision as to the form of the question trail is for the judge.

Question trails are not provided for every potential charge. This selection of question trails covers only the charges that arise most regularly in New Zealand courts.

The question trails have been developed using drafting principles that take into account appellate court guidance on their content:

The question trails are regularly updated.

Question trails by offence