Penalties & Sentencing
When a person is found guilty of a criminal offence, the court must decide on the appropriate sentencing order/s to make. It does this by reference to the relevant legislation and to the circumstances of the offender and the circumstances of the offending. Courts have a range of sentencing orders available to them, including fines, terms of imprisonment and supervised orders.
Courts generally have a wide discretion in deciding what sentence to impose. However, they are limited by the maximum and minimum penalties that can be imposed for a particular offence under the legislation. They must also be guided by case law as to what is the appropriate penalty range for a particular type of offending and as to what factors must be taken into consideration. There are also jurisdictional limits that restrict the penalties courts can impose. For example, Magistrates Courts may only impose a maximum prison term of two or three years (depending on the state or territory) for a single offence.
If a defendant is sentenced and the defence believes the penalty was unduly harsh, it may initiate an appeal. If the prosecution believes that the penalty was unduly lenient, it may also initiate an appeal. However, this occurs rarely.
This section contains information about penalties and sentencing in Australia.