If the accused pleads guilty or is found guilty in the Local Court, the magistrate will sentence them. The sentence process will usually start straight after a guilty verdict, and often straight after a guilty plea. In more complex matters, the magistrate may adjourn the matter for sentence.
During the sentence proceedings, the prosecution will hand the magistrate the police facts sheet or if the offender was found guilty after hearing, the magistrate will determine the facts based on the evidence. The prosecution will also provide the offender’s criminal record and / or traffic record and any other relevant documents, such as photos of the victim’s injuries or of property damage. The defence will usually hand up written character references, psychological or psychiatric reports, and relevant medical reports.
In serious matter, a magistrate will often request a ‘sentence assessment report’ on whether there are sentencing options available other than fulltime prison, such as compulsory drug treatment detention. This will generally result in a further adjournment.
Victim Impact Statements
In certain types of matters, the victim can provide a Victim Impact Statement (VIS). In those matters, the prosecution will hand a copy of the VIS to the magistrate. The victim is permitted to read it aloud, or have someone read it to the Court. VIS are not available in all serious matters dealt with in the Local Court, so if you would like to make one, talk to the prosecutor as early as possible about whether you will be able to and what you can say.
If you choose not to make a VIS, the court will not take this as meaning that you did not suffer harm from the crime.
Deciding on the sentence
The magistrate will then hear from the defence about factors that could affect the sentence. These can include, for example, the offender’s background, personal circumstances, rehabilitation prospects, family responsibilities, work situation, prospects for the future, and their plea.
The magistrate will sometimes ask the defence questions, speak to the offender directly, or ask the prosecution for its view on sentencing options.
The magistrate will then determine the appropriate sentence and provide reasons. In more complex matters the magistrate may adjourn the matter to provide them more time to prepare their judgment and sentence.