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Sentencing Assessment Reports in the Local Court (NSW)

Written by Sophie Dagg

Sophie Dagg holds a Bachelor of Laws through Central Queensland University. She then completed her Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice through the College of Law. Sophie practices mostly in criminal law and traffic law and has experience in both Queensland and New South Wales. Sophie is a strong and assertive advocate and appears regularly on behalf of her clients in the Magistrates and District Courts in Queensland as well as in Local and District Courts in New South Wales. She has a lot of experience representing Defendants charged with Heavy Vehicle offences in both New South Wales and Queensland.

A Sentencing Assessment Report (SAR) is used to assist a court to determine the appropriate sentencing orders to impose on a defendant. Sentencing Assessment Reports are prepared in response to an order by the court for an SAR to be prepared. Such an order may be made because of the nature of the offence, the defendant’s prior history or because the court is considering imposing a particular kind of order, such as a home detention order, which requires an assessment of the offender’s suitability.

What are sentencing assessment reports?

Sentencing Assessment Reports provide sentencing and condition options for the court to consider. They can be general assessment reports or they can be focused on the appropriateness of imposing one specific condition or order.

When are SARs ordered?

Generally a SAR will be ordered if a Defendant appears before the Court with a concerning criminal history, especially if there are prior offences of a similar nature. An SAR will also be ordered if the offence is a particularly serious one, regardless of whether the offender has a prior criminal history.

If a full SAR is ordered, then the matter must be adjourned for the purpose of facilitating the report.

What must the defendant do?

The Defendant is obligated to make contact with Community Corrections after the report is ordered. Community Corrections will then arrange a time to speak with the Defendant.

What will the report include?

Sentencing Assessment Reports include information about the offender’s family circumstances, education and employment and issues relevant to the offending, such as mental health and substance abuse. The assessor will interview the offender and may also contact other people connected with them, such as family members or employers, to verify information. They  will also consider the police facts, the offender’s criminal history and corrective services record and any material the offender or their lawyer has provided, such as psychological reports.

The report must address:

  1. Whether the Defendant presents as having a low, moderate or high risk of re-offending;
  2. Whether the Defendant displays remorse and contrition for his/her offending;
  3. Whether the Defendant may benefit from a period of supervision;
  4. How the Defendant’s behaviour and risk of reoffending would be addressed by supervision;
  5. Any particular conditions that may assist in facilitating supervision of a Defendant within the community;
  6. Whether a Defendant is suitable for community service work;
  7. How a Defendant has responded in the past to supervision;
  8. Whether Community Corrections intend on suspending supervision of the Defendant if ordered by a Court.

Are courts required to order an SAR?

There are circumstances where a court is not obliged to order Sentencing Assessment Reports, however will proceed to do so due to the severity of an offence or the Defendant’s prior history.

There are also circumstances in which a court must obtain an SAR, such as:

  1. Prior to ordering an Intensive Correction Order;
  2. Before imposing a Home Detention Order;
  3. Before imposing a Community Service Work Condition.

How else can an SAR assist?

Whilst a Sentencing Assessment Report is not legally binding, it is a useful report that can assist not only a Magistrate in sentencing, but it can also be a useful aid for defence lawyers. If a defendant presents as low risk and shows genuine remorse for his or her actions, the defence lawyer will often refer to this in his or her sentencing submissions during the plea in mitigation.

If you require legal advice or representation in a criminal law matter or in any other legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

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