You have been found guilty of, or plead guilty to, an offence and are now going to be given a sentence.
In the state of Victoria, many factors are taken into account when sentencing, so it is essential to understand the process and factors that go into determining a sentence for an offence.
What is a criminal sentence?
A criminal sentence is a punishment handed out to a person convicted of an offence. In popular culture, a “sentence” refers to the jail time given out after conviction, whereas, in real life, a sentence can include—prison time, fines, community service, restitution, or probation.
Who governs sentencing in Victoria?
Responsibility for sentencing is shared between parliament, the courts, and government departments and agencies in Victoria.
- Parliament – makes laws about sentencing.
- Courts – interpret the laws and decide the actual sentences to be imposed for each offender.
- Government departments and agencies, such as Corrections Victoria – administer sentences (managing offenders in prison or supervising offenders on community correction orders).
Who hands down a criminal sentence in Geelong courts?
The type of offence a person is charged with and the seriousness of the offence determine which court hears their case. No matter if the case goes to trial, a hearing, or a tribunal, a sentence can only be imposed after an offender has been found guilty of an offence. In Melbourne and Geelong courts, prosecutors and defence lawyers can make submissions about what they think a sentence should be, however, the judge or magistrate makes the sentencing decision in the end.
How is a sentence decided?
After an individual is found guilty of, or pleads guilty to, an offence, a sentencing judge or magistrate in Melbourne or Geelong identifies all the factors that are relevant to the sentence, considers the significance of each factor and then makes a decision about the appropriate sentence.
Sentencing factors for adults in Victoria
The Sentencing Act 1991 sets out the factors that must be taken into account when sentencing an adult in Victoria. These sentencing factors include:
- the maximum penalty for the offence
- the nature and gravity of the offence
- the offender’s blameworthiness, or in other words, the degree to which they should be held responsible for the offence
- whether the crime was motivated by prejudice
- the impact of the offence on the victim of the offence
- the personal circumstances of the victim of the offence
- any injury, loss, or damage resulting directly from the offence
- whether the offender pleaded guilty to the offence
- the offender’s character
Considerations Geelong judges and Melbourne magistrates take into account when sentencing
When weighing up the gravity of the offence, a judge or magistrate considers the offender’s:
- use of weapons
- history of offending
- response to previous court orders
- alcohol or drug addiction issues
If an offender pleads guilty the courts can reduce the severity of the sentence. If the magistrate or judge bestows a reduced sentence they must inform the offender what the sentence would have been without the guilty plea.
At the end of a court case, the judge or magistrate summaries the case, imposes a sentence and outlines the reasons for the sentence. Sentencing remarks explain the reasons for the sentence in plain language to those involved in a case. By explaining the purpose of the sentence or community correction order the judge or magistrate make it clear to the offender what the consequences will be if they breach the sentence or order.
Obtaining legal advice before entering a guilty or not-guilty plea in Melbourne
Engaging the team at Gallant Law, means you will have a dedicated and superior team of solicitors, barristers, and forensic experts helping you obtain the right outcome for your Geelong or Melbourne court case. With extensive experience in all types of courts and tribunals including the Magistrates’ Court, County Court, Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Children’s Court, Coroner’s Court and VCAT, the Gallant Law team will remove the complexity of dealing with being sentenced for an offence. Call us on (03) 9070 9885 to book your free consultation today.