Nudging court attendance using custody messaging

Dr Matthew Davies, Caitlin Spence

1Behavioural Science Aotearoa, Ministry Of Justice


This presentation discusses the development and implementation of in-cell messaging installed in Hastings custody unit to increase court attendance. This work was undertaken by Eastern District Police and Behavioural Science Aotearoa (BSA). BSA is a Ministry of Justice team dedicated to applying behavioural science across the justice sector.

This initiative aims to address high rates of court non-attendance in the Eastern Police District after defendants are released on Police bail. Based on a similar initiative in the UK, in-cell messaging was chosen as a timely and easy-to-deliver intervention that targets defendants’ motivation to attend court. Messages were developed to incorporate principles of Te Ao Māori, behavioural science and procedural justice. They are currently being piloted in Hastings custody unit.

BSA is undertaking a process evaluation to identify lessons and insights from the development and implementation of the messaging, as well as gathering available qualitative and quantitative data to assess the effectiveness of the messages.


Dr Matthew Davies is a criminologist specialising in applying behavioural insights to public policy. Matthew has overseen several large research projects with Police in New Zealand and the UK, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. He holds a PhD in Criminology from the University of Oxford, and an MPhil in Criminological Research from the University of Cambridge.

Caitlin Spence is a senior analyst in Behavioural Science Aotearoa, where she is involved in the design and analysis of evaluations for the team’s projects. Caitlin has a background in Statistics and Mathematics and graduated from the University of Auckland.