If you enter a plea of guilty and are sentenced in the District or Supreme Court, a Judge will preside over your sentence hearing. It is the Judge who will determine the penalty you get.




Before your sentence hearing you will need to sit in the dock, which is generally positioned in the back of the courtroom. The dock is where defendants must sit in the District and Supreme Courts during their sentence hearing. There will be corrective service officers present sitting beside the dock.




At the start of your sentence hearing the prosecutor and your barrister will announce their appearances to the Court. This means the prosecutor and your barrister will each say their names and tell the Judge who they represent. It is common practice for a barrister to represent defendants in the District or Supreme Court. Your barrister will do all the talking in Court and your solicitor will be present with them. After your barrister and the prosecutor have announced their appearances, the prosecutor will ask for you to be arraigned on the indictment. They will also ask for you to be arraigned on any summary charges transmitted to the court from the Magistrates Court.




The Court needs you to formally enter your plea of guilty to each count on the indictment. This process is known as the arraignment. The process is as follows:


You will stand and the Judge’s Associate will read out the first count (offence) on the indictment. The Associate will ask you how you plead (guilty or not guilty). The Associate will do this for each count on the indictment one by one. The process is as follows:


Judge’s Associate Speaks: “Your name stand charged on date at place with the text of the charge in the indictment. Your Name how do you plead, guilty or not guilty?”.


You Speak: The usual response is “Guilty Your Honour”, or “Guilty”. 


Judge’s Associate Speaks: “Your Name have been convicted on your own plea of guilty, is there anything you wish to say as to why sentence should not be passed?”


At this point the Judge will usually tell you to sit and you do not need to say anything.




After you have entered your plea of guilty to each count on the indictment, the prosecutor will stand and make submissions to the Judge. When the prosecutor makes submissions, they tell the Judge things such as:

  • the facts for the charge (what you did). The prosecutor may hand the Judge a document (referred to as a sentencing schedule or schedule of facts) containing all the information for the charge.
  • details of any harm you caused to a victim.
  • details of any loss you caused to any persons.
  • the penalty they say the Judge should give you.
  • aggravating features of your case. Aggravating features are things about you, the victim or the offence that may mean you should get a higher penalty.




After the prosecutor has made their submissions to the Judge, your barrister will stand up and make submissions. When your barrister makes submissions for you, they will be doing two things:


  1. Telling the Judge about you as a person; and
  2. Trying to persuade the Judge to give you a particular penalty.


The reason your barrister will tell the Judge about you as a person, is because the law says the Judge must have regard to your “character, age and intellectual capacity” when they sentence you. Your barrister is in the best position to tell the Judge about these things on your behalf. Things your barrister may tell the Judge may include:

  • what grade you got to in school.
  • if you have completed any formal qualifications or trades.
  • if you have had any traumatic events in your life.
  • your work history, if you have been employed.
  • your personal circumstances (e.g. if you are single, have a wife/husband, children).
  • what your plans are for the future.
  • any issues you have had in your life that may have led to your offending.
  • any positive things you have done in the community.


If you have character references or a medical report, these will be given to the Judge for them to consider when sentencing you.


Your barrister will discuss penalty and tell the Judge what penalty they should give you. Your barrister may give the Judge cases (previous court decisions) to support the penalty they advocate you should receive. If the prosecutor has given the Judge cases, your barrister may comment about them. If the penalties in the cases appear to be too high, your barrister may tell the Judge why your case is different to them. Your barrister will do this to convince the Judge you should get a different penalty to the persons mentioned in the cases relied upon by the prosecution.


Your barrister will tell the Judge about any mitigating features in your favour to help persuade the Judge to reduce your penalty. Mitigating features are things personal to you or the facts of the case.

Examples of mitigating features include:

  • you entered a plea of guilty at an early stage;
  • you have shown prospects of rehabilitation;
  • you have demonstrated remorse;
  • you have repaid the victim for any loss you caused to them;
  • your offending was for need, rather than greed;
  • your offending was spontaneous, rather than something planned;
  • you co-operated with the police in the investigation of the offence;
  • you made admissions to the offence to police;
  • you have good character and have never committed a criminal offence; and
  • you were young at the time you committed the offence.




When the prosecution and defence has finished making their submissions, the Judge will pass sentence. You must stand and listen to the Judge. When the Judge speaks, they will say what they have taken into consideration when deciding on the penalty they give you. Such things the Judge may mention include:


  • the facts for the offence (what you did).
  • the mitigating features of your case (things in your favour).
  • the aggravating features of your case (the negative things against you).


After discussing the above, the Judge will tell you the penalty they give you.

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