Sentencing Discounts (NSW)

In New South Wales when a person pleads guilty to a criminal offence, the court applies a sentencing discount. This means that the sentence the person receives is more lenient than the sentence that would have been imposed if they had been found guilty after a trial. This page deals with sentencing discounts in New South Wales.


Sentencing discounts are dealt with in Division 1A of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedures) Act 1999.

Rationale for sentencing discounts

Sentencing discounts are based on the principle that a person who pleads guilty is taking responsibility for their offending. They are also saving the court, the prosecution and the whole justice system the additional time and effort of running contested proceedings.

A person who is sentenced after pleading guilty is generally considered to be deserving of recognition of both the remorse they have shown by admitting the offence and the utilitarian benefit to the justice system in pleading guilty. This recognition is extended in the form of a sentencing discount.

It is important to note that a person who does not plead guilty is not punished for this. The sentence imposed on a person who pleaded not guilty but was found guilty is the sentence that is appropriate for the offending. It is not a reflection of the fact the matter was defended or the defence that was run.


In 2017, the New South Wales parliament passed amending legislation to encourage early appropriate guilty pleas (EAGPs) in strictly indictable matters. The changes were intended to address issues contributing to backlog and delays in the criminal justice system.

Sentencing discounts for matters heard on indictment

When a matter is dealt with on indictment, the sentencing discount that will apply depends on the stage of proceedings the guilty plea is entered. The scheme that governs sentencing discounts is contained in section 25D of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedures) Act 1999.

If the accused pleads guilty prior to the committal of the matter, they are entitled to a discount of 25%. If the accused pleads guilty after committal but more than 14 days before the trial begins or after complying with the pre-trial notice requirements and at the first available opportunity, they are entitled to a discount of 10%. If the accused pleads guilty less than 14 days before the trial begins, they are entitled to a discount of 5%.

The above scheme does not apply to:

  • Commonwealth offences
  • offences committed by young persons under 18 provided the accused was still under 21 when proceedings commenced
  • sentences of life imprisonment
  • offences dealt with summarily.

Sentencing discounts for Local Court matters

When a person pleads guilty to an offence in the Local Court, they are entitled to a sentencing discount in consideration of the time they have saved the court and the fact they have taken responsibility for their offending. However, the amount of the sentencing discount to be applied in the Local Court is not set out in the legislation.

Where offer made but refused

Under section 25E of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999, if an accused makes an offer to resolve a matter by pleading guilty to an offence that is not the offence they are charged with and that offer is refused by the prosecution and the accused is subsequently found guilty of the offence to which they offered to plead guilty or an offence that is reasonably equivalent to it, the accused is entitled to the sentencing discount in recognition of this.

Sentencing discount may not be applied

Under section 25F of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) 1999, a court may decide to reduce or not to apply a sentencing discount because the level of culpability in the offence is so extreme that it should not be applied.

The court must indicate how the sentencing was calculated and where the discount was applied, or give reasons for reducing or not applying the discount.

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


Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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