There are a number of sentences and penalties which the Court can give as a result of being found guilty of an offence. Each sentence differs from the other and the Court will consider a number of different factors before choosing a sentence.
Factors considered by the Court when giving a sentence include:
- The seriousness of the offending;
- The offender’s personal circumstances at the time of the offending;
- The offender’s criminal history, including their compliance with past sentences;
- The offending’s effect on the victim;
- Steps the offender has taken post incident, such as completing a substance abuse or safe driver’s program;
- Character references provided by the offender;
- The offender’s remorse; and
- Submissions made by the offender’s lawyer.
Below are the most common sentences imposed in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, starting from sentences for less serious offending and ending in sentences for the more serious offences.
A dismissal is the least serious sentence applicable in the Magistrates’ Court. If the offender is found guilty of an offence which is on the lowest end, a Magistrate may consider a dismissal.
A dismissal is when the Magistrate finds the offence proven, a finding of guilt is recorded against the offender, however there is no conviction or further penalty.
Dismissals are most common in circumstances where it is a first-time offender and the circumstances around the offending do not warrant a further penalty.
If an individual is found guilty of an offence, the Court may adjourn the matter for up to five years (most commonly 12 months), with the offender entering into an Undertaking to be of good behaviour for the duration of the adjournment. The Magistrate has discretion in imposing a conviction. An Adjourned Undertaking is commonly referred to as a “Good Behaviour Bond”.
The Court may also impose further conditions other than to be of good behaviour, such as to attend upon a general practitioner and obtain a mental health care plan, complete a safe driver’s program or even make a donation to the Magistrates’ Court Fund.
If any of the conditions are not complied with, the offender may be resentenced, with risk of a harsher penalty. They will need to appear at the adjourned date in these circumstances.
If the offender has complied with all the conditions of their Undertaking, then they will not need to return on the adjourned date and they will have completed their sentence.
A fine is a financial penalty which may be imposed on the offender. The Magistrate has discretion in imposing a conviction.
Often, fines are referred to Fines Victoria, where the offender will receive a letter in the mail with instructions on how to pay the fine and when it is due. It is important to ensure that the Court has your current address so that fines are not lost.
The monetary amount imposed by the Magistrate is dependent on a number of factors, including the seriousness of the offending and the offender’s financial position.
Community Corrections Order (CCO)
A Community Corrections Order (CCO) is the second highest sentence which the Court can impose on an offender. CCOs are flexible orders which allow the offender to serve their sentence in the community. A number of varying conditions can be imposed and are determined on the personal circumstances of the offender and the nature of the offending.
When the Court is considering imposing a CCO, the sentence will be adjourned for a short amount of time so the offender can be assessed as to their suitability to undertake a CCO. The offender will be contacted by their closest corrections centre and will be assessed on a number of different things, such as their risk of reoffending, their mental health, substance abuse issues, home life, the need to be monitored and their suitability to complete community work.
Once assessment has been completed, the corrections assessor will then write a report to the Court, with recommendations on the most suitable conditions for the offender. These conditions may include:
- Unpaid community work;
- Psychological treatment;
- Treatment for substance abuse; and
It is ultimately the Magistrate’s decision as to what conditions are applied on the CCO, and may impose further conditions such as:
- Bans on entering specified areas or places;
- Bans on entering licenced premises and bans on drinking alcohol;
- Restrictions on contacting or associating with certain people or groups; and
- Residential restrictions.
Breaching any of the conditions of a CCO may result in being resentenced.
For more serious offending, the Court may sentence an offender to a period of imprisonment. Imprisonment may also be a suitable sentence where the offender has a long criminal history and has not complied with previous orders.
The Magistrates’ Court can only sentence an individual to a maximum of 2 years imprisonment for a single offence, or up to 5 years for multiple offences.