These four people have all broken the law. They have been arrested, sent to court and found guilty. Now they need to be sentenced. With these stories based on real life cases, you can decide for yourself and match your decisions with the actual sentences. You be the judge!
Click on an offender to hear their story…
Offender: Peter (Magistrates’ Court)
Page 2 (Having clicked on Peter)
Video – Peter leans on a fence and describes the circumstances of his offence.
“I was just walking down the road seeing who I could hit up for some money to get a fix, you know cause I was just starting to come down and you know I needed some smack real fast.
“Then I saw this woman come out of her house and get in a car and drive off, so I had this idea.
“So I jumped her side fence and umm, I tried to get in the window, but it was locked. So I found this spade lying down, and I just thought oh – I grabbed that and smashed the window, reached through and opened the door.
“I think I cut my arm on the way out. I didn’t even notice it till I was inside. You know, blood was just dripping everywhere when I got inside. I grabbed a rag and wrapped it around me arm and looked around for a few things I could fit in my pockets. Then I saw this big jar of money and I thought ‘too easy’, you know. So I grabbed that.
“Then I heard a doorbell ring. I just freaked, you know? So I ran out the door, but as I ran out the door I just tripped over and fell flat first and smashed the jar, and coins just went everywhere. So I had to leave without the money, bleeding and everything.
“Yeah, so anyway, the cops picked me up a few weeks later and arrested me. Said they got the fingerprints off the broken jar. So yeah…”
- Do you want to take on the case?
- Or go back?
- Link to Sentencing Advisory Council
Page 3 (Having clicked take on the case)
Video of Peter in an interview room.
Peter has pleaded guilty to burglary. His case will be heard in the Magistrates’ Court where he could be given a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment.
As the magistrate, you must consider:
- The purposes for sentencing Peter:
- What are his prospects for rehabilitation?
- How can you deter Peter from committing any more crimes?
- And what is a fair punishment?
- Then you will have to consider many other factors to do with Peter’s background and his criminal history.
To find out more about sentencing options, click on the button, or select continue…
Page 4 (Having clicked to find out more)
A pop-up window describes the purposes of sentencing and sentencing factors.
Here are some more things to keep in mind while sentencing.
Purposes of sentencing
The only purposes for which a sentence can be imposed are:
- Just punishment
- Specific and general deterrence
- To protect the community from the offender.
A judge must take into account these factors when sentencing:
- Maximum penalty and current sentencing practice
- Nature and gravity of the offence
- Offender’s responsibility and culpability and previous character
- If the offence was motivated by hatred or prejudice
- Impact of the offence on any victim
- Plea of guilty
- Aggravating and mitigating factors.
Page 5 (Having clicked continue on page 3)
Image of a courtroom, with the prosecutor and defence lawyer at the bar table, and Peter in the interview room, all ready to answer the questions listed below their pictures.
To find out more, click on a question. You will need to ask at least four questions to move on, but the more you ask, the more informed your sentencing will be.
Page 5a (Defence lawyer – first question: “Has Peter been in trouble before?”)
Video of defence lawyer speaking to the magistrate, answering question 1.
“Ah, your honour, my client has not been in any trouble with the police for the last five years. He was working as a gardener in a nursery, and in a stable relationship. He started using drugs again when his mother died to deal with his grief.”
Page 5b (Defence lawyer – second question: “Is he likely to do something like this again?”)
Video of defence lawyer speaking to the magistrate, answering question 2.
“Your Honour, Peter’s prospects for rehabilitation are very good. He is now taking responsibility for his addiction. He has just completed a drug and alcohol program, and is likely to have stable housing within the next few weeks.”
Page 5c (Defence lawyer – third question: “Is he sorry for what he’s done?”)
Video of defence lawyer speaking to the magistrate, answering question 3:
“Peter is very remorseful for his behaviour. He is keen to take responsibility for his actions, and he is willing and able to pay for the damage to the window.”
Page 5d (Peter – first question: “What was your childhood like?”)
Video of Peter in interview room, answering question 1:
“Ah, I dunno my real father. Me and my Mum used to live with her boyfriend. And he used to beat her up a lot. Mum was always sick. I wasn’t very good at school, you know? I couldn’t really read, and I sucked at maths. And I never really did any homework ’cos I was always looking after my Mum.”
Page 5e (Peter – second question: “Why did you commit this crime?”)
Video of Peter in interview room, answering question 2:
“Well, things hadn’t been going too well for me. My Mum died. Um … I lost my job. My girlfriend kicked me out, and I ended up back on the smack. I didn’t really know what else to do. I just felt really useless.”
Page 5f (Peter – third question: “What did you do after you left school?”)
Video of Peter in interview room, answering question 3:
“I left school when I was 16. Ah, I lived off the dole for a while. When I was 20, I got a job in a nursery, which was good because I didn’t have to read or anything.”
Page 5g (Prosecutor – first question: “How was he identified by the police?”)
Video of prosecutor speaking to the magistrate, answering question 1:
“The police apprehended him several weeks after the burglary following positive identification of his fingerprints on both the broken window and the money jar. His blood was found in several locations throughout the house.”
Page 5h (Prosecutor – second question: “What were the circumstances of the offence?”)
Video of prosecutor speaking to the magistrate, answering question 2:
“The accused needed some money to buy drugs. He broke into the house by breaking a window. He found a large jar of money and was carrying it out of the house when he heard the doorbell ring. He dropped the money jar and fled with nothing.”
Page 5i (Prosecutor – third question: “Does Peter have any prior convictions?”)
Video of prosecutor speaking to the magistrate, answering question 3:
“Peter has had four court appearances for driving offences and minor drug possession. Your Honour, there have been no convictions in the past five years.”
Page 6 (Pre-sentence report)
Picture of part of a pre-sentence report.
Magistrates need to consider other submissions. This is a summary of a full assessment from Community Corrections.
Voice over and text on screen:
“Peter reported that he committed this burglary to support his heroin addiction.
“Since then, Peter has commenced treatment for his substance abuse and has developed a plan to deal with his addictions, homelessness and sense of futility.
“A community correction order would support Peter to continue his treatment and address his addiction, whilst making reparation to the community by way of community work.
“Due to Peter’s risk of further offending, supervision has been recommended as a condition on his order, in addition to the community work and treatment conditions being considered by the court”
Page 7 (Having clicked continue – how to select a sentence)
Picture of the offender and a choice of sentences to choose from. They include imprisonment, community correction order and fine.
The maximum penalty a magistrate can give for this case is two years’ imprisonment. Which would you choose?
How to select a sentence:
- Cursor over sentence for more information
- Select the sentence which best fits the crime
- Next you will have to select how long the sentence will be.
Imprisonment – most severe sentence. Offender loses freedom and is held in prison. Maximum two years.
Page 8a (Having selected imprisonment)
Picture of a sentence length sliding scale. Choose the length of imprisonment from between six months and two years.
How to select how long:
- Use the slider to select how long the sentence will be
- Then click continue.
Community correction order – a community correction order combines supervision with conditions that can include unpaid community work, treatment programs and curfews. Maximum two years.
Page 8b (Having selected community correction order)
Picture of a sliding scale indicating sentence length. Choose the length of the community correction order from between three months and two years.
How to select how long:
- Use the slider to select how long the sentence will be
- Then click continue.
Fine – The maximum fine for this offence is 500 penalty units. Fines are penalties of money that the offender must pay. The value of a fine is called a penalty unit. One penalty unit is roughly equal to $140, although the actual amount increases slightly every year.
Page 8c (Having selected fine)
Picture of a sliding scale indicating amount of fine. Choose the amount of the fine between one unit and 500 units.
How to select how much:
- Use the slider to select how much the fine will be
- Then click continue.
Page 9 (Having selected a sentence)
Video of Peter standing in the court to hear his sentence from the magistrate.
Magistrate’s sentence and comments:
“Stand up please Mr Nelson. In sentencing you today I note you express significant remorse and pled guilty at the earliest opportunity.
“However, a residential burglary is one of the crimes the community most fear. Victims of crime continually relate their stories of their distress when returning home to find their homes have been invaded.
“Your offending commenced after you left home at 16 and turned to crime, drugs and alcohol.
“In this burglary, you entered a house to steal items that you could later sell to support your heroin addiction. You were so affected by drugs, you dropped the items as you left the premises. Since then, you have been participating in programs designed to assist you with your addiction and your homelessness.
“I note that you have previous convictions; however, you have not been before the court for five years, and I consider you a good candidate for rehabilitation.
“You will be ordered to pay compensation for the damage to the window.
“I convict you and sentence you to a 12 months community correction order. You will be directed to attend treatment and rehabilitation and do 60 hours of unpaid community work.”
Page 10 (Having heard the sentence)
Picture of Peter sitting on a park bench. Caption: To find out more about Peter, click here.
Picture of Peter entering an office foyer. Caption: To find out what Peter did on his community correction order, click here.
To find out more about Peter, click the button.
Page 10a (Having selected find out more about Peter)
In most cases, a crime doesn’t just happen. It’s usually the result of a person’s life being in crisis, family problems, work, money, drugs. These are often complicated issues that combine to cause someone to commit a crime. And if these issues aren’t dealt with after the crime, then it’s difficult for the offender to get his life back in order.
Video of Peter sitting on a park bench talking about his life before committing this crime.
“Ah, I never knew my Dad. My Mum lived with her boyfriend. He treated me real bad. He was a real loser.
"My Mum had bipolar and I always took care of her when she got real sick. You know, I did the shopping and the cooking, things like that.
“I first got in trouble with the cops when I was 19. Then I met Cynthia. Still don’t know why she chose me. I’m just lucky, I guess. You know, we moved in together. We had Luke. He’s my son. And I got a job at the local nursery, and for a while there, you know, things were real good.
“Then my Mum died. And I lost my job, ’cause the place I was working at closed down. And I didn’t have any money. So Cynthia and I started arguing, then she kicked me out.
“I didn’t have anywhere to go, so I just, stayed on the couches at me mate’s place, you know, drinking, smoking dope. Then I got into the H. And once you get into that stuff, you know, you gotta have some coin.
“So I started stealing everything I could lay my hands on. Then I got caught. And that’s why I’m here now.”
Page 10b (Having selected find out what Peter did on his community correction order)
Video of Peter talking with Liz, his Corrections Officer, then working outdoors with a team of people repairing a pathway, then playing with his son in a local park:
“So I met with Liz for the first time, she’s my Corrections Officer. We talked about what I had to do.
“I have to go to rehab for the smack, do my community work, and meet up with Liz every week. I didn’t want to go to rehab. I can kick the smack myself. I’ve done it before. But she said if I didn’t go, I’d end up in court again. So, I have to go to counselling and they take drug tests every week.
“I told Liz I’d been doing some casual work at a nursery, labouring, you know landscaping that kind of thing. So she tried to find me some work like that. I had to do 60 hours. You know, it’s pretty good, working in a national park, you know, building a bike track, it’s pretty good. But of course, I don’t get paid. So I still need money to live.
“I tried to keep my other job at the nursery and, um... Yeah but one day, I was trying to make it from my drug test to work and the bus never turned up. So when it finally turned up, the boss fired me.
“You know, it’s pretty hard getting work, ’cause sometimes you get asked if you’ve got a criminal record and I have to say ‘yes’ and that’ s the end of that.
“I really love Luke, my kid. I get to see him every second weekend and once during the week. But sometimes, you know, with all the community work and the rehab, sometimes its hard to pick him up on time. My ex doesn’t help. She says it’s my own fault. But she’s trying to stop Luke from seeing me. But I’m not giving up on Luke that easy.
“So I met with Liz for the last time. I told her I still didn’t have any full-time work, but I heard they’re hiring at the place where I did my community work, so I hope they give me a job.
“I’m on the waiting list for community housing, but I’m still living with me mate. Liz asked if there were any drugs around the house. But I told her I’m clean now. I mean, I really love the drugs. I know I’d be stupid to start again, but who knows?
“I’m still fighting with my ex about seeing Luke. You know, I reckon if I get a job and my own flat, I reckon that would be better. And I’ve gotta stay clean for Luke too. Enough stuff’s happened to me in my life. But who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow? I mean it’s just one day at a time for me.”