Where a guilty plea is entered without the need for any trial, the sentencing court must ascertain the facts of the case before it can pass sentence.
If the defendant has pleaded guilty in the Magistrates Court, the police prosecutor outlines the facts from the police report.
In a superior court, if the accused was committed for sentence or pleads guilty at an arraignment before the trial, the judge has the facts set out in the formal statements of the witnesses (and any evidence given at a preliminary hearing).
If material facts are disputed, there may need to be a disputed fact hearing (see Disputed fact hearing).
Once the court has established the facts of the case, the prosecution advises the court if there are any prior offences (see Prior offending). In particular, where a defendant has been convicted of a serious offence, the prosecution will advise if there are previous serious offences which make the defendant liable to be declared a serious repeat offender. The prosecution may also put other relevant matters to the court.
This may include any applications for compensation on behalf of the victim or provide the court with a victim impact statement, which is a statement by the victim saying how they believe the crime has affected them and can be presented in writing or orally [Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act 1988 (SA) ss7, 7A].
Other matters put by the prosecution and the victim’s role may include details of any injury, loss or damage resulting from the offence to assist the court to determine sentence [Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act 1988 (SA) s 7].
The defendant, or his or her lawyer, then has an opportunity to address the court about any matters relevant to sentencing. These are called submissions in mitigation of penalty (see Mitigating circumstances).
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