A scheme providing for a reduction in sentence for early guilty pleas was introduced in the previous Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act 1988 (SA) and continues in the current Sentencing Act 2017 (SA), which came into operation on 30 April 2018.
The legislated scheme provides for a reduction of sentence by up to 40% for early guilty pleas in both the Magistrates Court [Sentencing Act 2017 (SA) s 39] and other courts [Sentencing Act 2017 (SA) s 40]. Under the scheme, the earlier the guilty plea is in the court process, the greater the potential reduction in sentence.
In determining the relevant reduction in sentence, the court can consider:
- The proportionality of the reduction of sentence as compared to the seriousness of the offence;
- The stage in the proceedings at which the defendant first indicated their intention to plead guilty;
- Whether the defendant was initially charged with a different offence and whether negotiations occurred with the prosecution in relation to the additional offence(s);
- In the case where a defendant has been charged with more than one offence, whether the defendant has pleaded guilty to the other offences;
- Whether the defendant was made aware of any relevant matters which would have enabled them to plead guilty at an earlier stage; and
- Whether the defendant could not have reasonably pleaded guilty at an earlier stage because of circumstances beyond their control.
See Sentencing Act 2017 (SA) ss 39 and 40.
Section 41 of the Sentencing Act 2017 (SA) outlines the process the court must follow in applying sentencing reductions.
For an outline of the specific reductions available and at what stage in the proceedings they apply, see Duty Solicitor Handbook chapter on Guilty Pleas.
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