Sentencing Factors

Section 5(2) of the Sentencing Act 1991 sets out the factors that must be taken into account in sentencing.

These factors include the following:

  • the maximum penalty for the offence
  • current sentencing practices
  • the nature and gravity of the offence
  • the offender’s culpability and degree of responsibility for the offence
  • whether the crime was motivated by hatred or prejudice
  • the impact of the offence on any victim of the offence
  • the personal circumstances of any 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 previous character
  • the presence of any aggravating or mitigating factors.

The types of considerations a judge or magistrate might take into account when weighing up the nature and gravity of the offence include the offender’s intention and the consequences of the offence, use of weapons and any breach of trust. A judge or magistrate may also consider the offender’s history of offending, response to previous court orders or alcohol or drug addiction. Aggravating factors increase the seriousness of the offence while mitigating factors lessen the offender’s culpability for an offence.

The law also allows courts to reduce a sentence if a person pleads guilty. If the court gives a discount for this reason, the judge or magistrate must state what the penalty would have been without the guilty plea.

A link to the Sentencing Act 1991 is included on our legislation page.