Provisions relating to discounts for guilty pleas have changed from 2 November, including for matters on foot as at that date.
The By Lawyers Magistrates Court – Criminal SA commentary has been amended accordingly. See particularly the section on Discounts on sentence for early pleas of guilty.
Section 39 of the Sentencing Act 2017 for summary and minor indictable offences treated summarily, and s 40 for other offences, provides that when passing sentence the court must take into account the fact that the offender pleaded guilty and when the offender pleaded guilty. The court can reduce the sentence it would have otherwise imposed up to certain percentages depending upon when the plea is entered.
Section 39(4) and s 40(5) Sentencing Act 2017 set out the considerations to which the court must have regard when determining an appropriate discount, including where the defendant is charged with or has pleaded guilty to more than one offence. Practitioners should note that some of those considerations now only apply to guilty pleas entered on or after 2 November 2020.
Specific percentage discounts for pleas of guilty are provided in the legislation for defendants pleading guilty to all types of offences in the Magistrates Court. To be eligible for the maximum reduction of the sentence that the court would otherwise have imposed, the defendant must enter the plea of guilty within four weeks of the first appearance.
In all cases, the considerations under s 39(4) and s 40(5) Sentencing Act 2017 include when the defendant first indicated an intention to plead guilty – it is therefore important, if seeking the maximum discount to indicate a likely plea of guilty to the court as soon as the instructions are to that effect, preferably on the first appearance, even if the actual plea cannot be entered until a later date due, for example, to negotiations over the facts.