In NSW, courts are able to handle criminal offences without recording any criminal conviction if they choose to activate Section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedures) Act (1999). Where appropriate, courts are able to use this provision to dismiss a charge altogether or to dismiss the offender into an intervention program or good behaviour bond without any recorded conviction.
This provision gives courts discretionary power to effectively give offenders a ‘second chance’ where no conviction is recorded against their name. The provision is most often used in cases where the offender has made a big error in judgement and is unlikely to ever reoffend after having brushed so closely with the law.
Effectively, the provision helps keep people out of prisons and the justice system by giving them a chance to escape criminal conviction. This is because, once a conviction is recorded, offenders are permanently branded as criminals and this can affect their ability to find employment, which in turn leads to poverty and a higher chance of committing more crime.
Section 10’s help keep otherwise law abiding people out of the criminal justice system and are often sought by criminal defence lawyers who have clients who are facing their first offence.
When will a court issue a Section 10?
A court may use Section 10 when it considers it appropriate and will take into consideration the following:
- The offenders character, background, age, mental and physical health;
- The triviality of their offence;
- Any extenuating circumstances under which the offence took place;
- Any other relevant material
In some cases, courts will find that a Section 10 is most appropriate for first time offenders. This is because our legislation and society at large takes the stance that people should be given a second chance to maintain their good public standing.
In other circumstances, a particularly trivial offence with extenuating circumstances will also earn a Section 10.
The probability of receiving a Section 10 order decreases dramatically if you already have a criminal record or if you have committed similar offences within 5 years of one another.
At its core, Section 10 exists so that the arm of the law is not seen as overbearing in cases where there are legitimate extenuating circumstances. Depending on the crime, most of society is ready to forgive moments of stupidity or opportunism that lead people to commit offences, and we believe that people shouldn’t have a black stain against their name for something they deeply regret and won’t do again.
The court needs to make sure it imposes a sentence that both serve the interests of the community and works to rehabilitate the offender. It is essential the court considers all factors when deciding whether to record a conviction or not and must apply principles of both specific and general deterrence.
If you find yourself facing police scrutiny, contact our criminal lawyers in Campbelltown so we can examine your case and help you identify the best path forward.