Criminal Law Facts: What’s a Pre-Sentence Report?
A quick introduction to crime and punishment in NSW
When it comes to crime and punishment it’s hard to not let the mind wander immediately to thoughts of prison time and gaol cells. But, that’s rarely the case. Unless you’ve committed a serious criminal offence it’s unlikely you’ll end up serving an imposed prison order, even if you are found guilty.
In fact, the Statistical Snapshot Report of Crime and Justice in New South Wales, reports that between 2012-2013 there were 116,056 offenders brought before the courts. Comparatively, head counts from September 2014 recorded 10, 426 prisoners.
A pre-sentence report is one of the key mitigating factors that could lead to a less severe sentence. Keep reading to find out more.
Quick Facts: the state of criminal sentencing in NSW
- Children’s court sentencing: In 2013 the most commonly applied penalty was a bond (31.3%), followed by a probation order (18.9%).
- Local court sentencing: The most common penalties were: fines (40%), bonds without conviction (14%), bonds without supervision (14%) and imprisonment (8%).
- Higher court sentencing: Cases before the NSW Higher Courts are more likely to result in prison time. Those found guilty of offences such as aggravated sexual assault; unlawful entry with intent/burglary, aggravated robbery; and the dealing and trafficking of illegal drugs are more likely to serve prison time. In these cases, just under 70% of convicted offenders will have to serve their imposed prison time.
Defining Pre-Sentence Reports in NSW
Prior to sentencing, the Magistrate may order a pre-sentence report. This is especially likely if the committed offence could result in imprisonment.
So what is a pre-sentence report?
In NSW, the pre-sentence report is the gathered facts pertaining to the context and situation of an offender. Its contents include information about an offender’s family situation, education and background, medical and psychological history, and assessed risk to the community.
Who prepares a pre-sentence report?
An officer within the Community Corrections department will prepare your pre-sentencing report.
Where do I go and how long will it take?
Generally speaking, the Magistrate will require you to present to your nearest Community Corrections office within seven days.
You can find the nearest Community Corrections office by clicking here.
Your matter will be adjourned for six weeks to allow for the report to be finalised and presented to the Court.
What happens if I don’t comply with an order to complete a pre-sentence report?
While the court isn’t bound to the recommendations made within the report, it’s in your best interests to cooperate with Community Corrections in their efforts to provide the Magistrate with viable sentencing options. Alternatives to imprisonment could include Community Service Orders, Home Detention or Intensive Correction Orders.
What happens once I make contact with Community Corrections?
Once you contact Community Corrections, an appointment will be set up for an interview that will run for approximately 1.5 hours.
During your interview, the Community Corrections Officer will ask you about:
- your present situation and your current family situation;
- your employment status and your ambitions; and
- the names of family, friends or employers who can verify the information you’ve provided.
The Community Corrections Officer will gather details about your offence and, if you have a criminal record, those of past offences.
What happens next?
This information then forms the content of your pre-sentence report, which is then sent to the court for review.
The report includes information you and the police have provided and comments about what sentences might be appropriate in your case. Recommendations can include whether or not a community-based order or intensive supervision order might suit you and your offence/s and whether a treatment program of some description might help.
The recommendations made by the officer are not binding on the court and the court can impose any sentence it thinks is appropriate.
However, recommendations usually have some persuasive force so, it’s important you explain everything in detail including any recent stressors in your life; your level of alcohol consumption; the degree of family support you have; and any other facts that could be important for creating a better picture for the reasons and conditions leading up to the crime.
Failure to participate fully in the pre-sentencing report process may leave the court with no other option than a full time custodial sentence.
Snapshot of the contents of a pre-sentence report
- Sources of information
- Prior management by Community Corrections
- Family/Social circumstances
- Education and employment
- Factors relating to offending
- Risk level and Criminogenic needs
- Assessment and community based sentencing options
What happens once I receive my finalised pre-sentence report?
It’s important you receive your pre-sentence report before your next appearance to ensure the report doesn’t include any subjective views and/or any reference to other offences you currently haven’t been charged with.
If you believe your pre-sentencing report does contain subjective views and references uncharged offences, you’ll need to seek legal advice in order to provide evidence. In some circumstances, the officer may need to be cross-examined with the leave of the court. If you feel you're pre-sentencing report is biased contact CM Lawyers immediately, so our legal team can help prepare the evidence for you.
Written by: CM Lawyers Solicitor, Steve Kassem
Looking for more information about pre-sentence reports; or simply want to have a chat with one of our experienced criminal law solicitors? Get the help you need by either filling out our contact form or calling us on 02 9199 2590. A member of our team will be in contact with you within the same business day.