Sentencing Hearings after a Plea of Guilty

A sentencing hearing will occur after an accused person pleads guilty.

Magistrates Court

In less serious cases, where the charges are dealt with in the Magistrates Court, the accused person can be sentenced immediately after pleading guilty.If the matter is complex, or reports are ordered, sentencing can occur on a later date.

District Court

Where the charges must be dealt with in the District Court, there can be a number of hearings after a plea of guilty is entered, and before the sentencing hearing. A “fast-track” plea will require at least one Sentence Mention hearing, before the sentencing hearing.

What happens at a sentencing hearing if I plead guilty?

The process for a sentencing is, firstly, that the charge or charges are read to the accused person by the Magistrate or by the Judge’s Associate.  The accused person responds to each charge by saying “guilty”. After this, the prosecutor reads the Statement of Material Facts and can make submissions about the offending and what type of sentence should be imposed. 

The accused person’s lawyer will also make submissions about the type of sentence to be imposed, explaining why the accused committed the offence, and telling the Court about the accused’s personal circumstances with the purpose of persuading the sentencing Magistrate or Judge to impose a sentence that takes into account all of the mitigating factors. Mitigating factors are things that make the offending less serious. Because of this, sentencing hearings are also referred to as a “plea in mitigation”.

What the Magistrate or Judge will consider

  • At sentencing, the Magistrate or Judge will consider:
  • The circumstances of the offending and where it lies on the scale of seriousness for that type of offence;
  • The aggravating factors that make the particular offending more serious;
  • The mitigating factors that make the offending less serious;
  • The offender’s personal circumstances, including their background, employment, family, and medical conditions;
  • The explanation provided by the offender for committing the offence;
  • Whether the offender is remorseful about committing the offence;
  • Whether the offender has insight and is likely to re-offend in a similar way again; 
  • Whether the offender has taken any steps to rehabilitate him or herself; and
  • Whether or not the offender has any prior convictions and, if so, whether they are for similar offences.

The type of sentence that can be imposed

The sentences that can be imposed in Western Australia are:

  • A Conditional Release Order (“CRO”) - commonly known as a “good behaviour bond”; where the court may impose a requirement on you to ensure that you comply with the Order, such as a fine payable only if you offend during the term of the order;
  • A fine;
  • A Community Based Order (“CBO”) – this must involve one or more of the following: supervision requirement, programme requirement and/or a community service requirement;
  • An Intensive Supervision Order (“ISO”) – this involves a supervision requirement, and may include one or more of the following: programme requirement, community service requirement and/or a curfew requirement;
  • A Suspended Imprisonment Order (“SIO”) - meaning that the term of imprisonment is not to be served unless the offender commits an offence while serving the sentence, and the maximum penalty for the new charge is a term of imprisonment, and you are then ordered to serve the suspended term;
  • A Conditional Suspended Imprisonment Order (“CSIO”) - which is similar to suspended imprisonment, but also requires at least one of the following: programme requirement, supervision requirement and/or a curfew requirement.
  • Immediate imprisonment - meaning you go to prison immediately to serve your sentence. 

Please note that sentences for Commonwealth offences and Children’s Court offences differ from the above.

Other Options

If you are pleading guilty to a charge, there are a number of options to consider that may assist for sentencing:

  1. Asking to be put on a Pre-Sentence Order (“PSO”) - which means the offender is placed on a program where there will be one or more of the following: supervision requirement, program requirement and/or a  curfew requirement. Successful completion of the PSO can result in a less serious penalty than what would ordinarily be imposed;
  2. Seeking a referral to Drug Court – this is a specialty court which deals with offenders who have a drug related problem. A program can last for about 3-12 months, depending on the offender’s needs. Successful completion of the program can result in a less serious penalty than what would ordinarily be imposed;
  3. Seeking a referral to START Court – this is a specialty court which deals with offenders who have a mental health condition. A program can last for about 6 months, depending on the offender’s needs. Successful completion of the program can result in a less serious penalty than what would ordinarily be imposed.
  4. Participating in Victim-Offender Mediation - which involves the offender making amends and apologising to the victim with the assistance of a mediation officer. This may involve a face to face meeting with the victim. 

Other Orders that can be imposed

A spent conviction can be granted with a CRO, fine or CBO, but cannot be granted if you are sentenced to an ISO, SIO, CSIO or immediate imprisonment. You can find more information regarding spent convictions here.

Other orders may include:

  • Reparation;
  • Compensation;
  • Restitution;
  • The making of a Violence Restraining Order or Family Violence Restraining Order; and
  • Becoming a reportable offender for sexual related offences.

 

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