I am pleading guilty - can I be penalised without receiving a criminal conviction?

I am pleading guilty - can I be penalised without receiving a criminal conviction?

Yes. The Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act 1988 allows the court to impose a fine and / or a sentence of community service without recording a criminal conviction. However, the court must be satisfied that certain criteria are met before exercising the discretion. Section 16 of the Act states:

 Where a court finds a person guilty of an offence for which it proposes to impose a fine, a sentence of community service, or both and the court is of the opinion— 
            (a)         that the defendant is unlikely to commit such an offence again; and 
            (b)         that, having regard to— 
                  (i)         the character, antecedents, age or physical or mental condition of the defendant; or 
                  (ii)         the fact that the offence was trifling; or 
                  (iii)         any other extenuating circumstances, 
good reason exists for not recording a conviction, 
the court may impose the penalty without recording a conviction. 

Sentencing courts have exercised the discretion in relation to a wide range of offences including theft, assault, cultivating cannabis and minor firearms offences. 

It should also be noted that Section 39 of the Act also allows the court, upon a finding of guilt, to discharge a defendant without recording a conviction upon the condition that the defendant enter into a good behaviour bond.

Fabbian Lawyers regularly make sentencing submissions on behalf of defendants seeking that penalties be imposed without the recording of convictions. A successful sentencing application requires thorough preparation combined with careful and persuasive submissions before the relevant sentencing court. It is recommended that a defendant seeking no conviction obtain the assistance of a specialist criminal lawyer. 

The information contained within this article is intended as a general overview and discussion of the subjects dealt with. The information provided here was accurate as of the day it was posted; however, the law may have changed since that date. This information is not intended to be, and should not be used as, a substitute for taking legal advice in any specific situation. Craig Fabbian and Fabbian Lawyers are not responsible for any actions taken or not taken on the basis of this information.