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  • 08 Crime and Punishment
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Crime and Punishment


This chapter explains the difference between a crime and an offence, the difference between criminal and civil wrongs and which court will hear a matter. Also considered here are the rights of a person charged and the process, procedure and outcomes of court

What is Crime?

Crime is illegal activity that is prohibited by the law. A crime is often called an ‘offence’. Some people wear shirts that say ‘it’s only illegal if you get caught’. This is untrue. Any activity prohibited by statute or the common law is illegal whether you are caught or not. This is like saying...

Who is an offender?

Most crimes are committed by males between the ages of 15 and 40. Some offences are more prevalent among certain classes. For example, older, white males most often commit corporate offences, just as men commit most crimes of interpersonal violence from disadvantaged socio-economic classes. This ...

Crimes vs Civil Wrongs

In broad terms, crime involves community condemnation and punishment through the State (either State or Commonwealth), while a civil wrong is a wrong against an individual that calls for compensation or repayment to the person wronged. If a person takes money from someone’s bag without their perm...

Which Court?

Most criminal matters in Tasmania are dealt with in the Magistrates Court. Matters dealt with in the Magistrates Court range from speeding offences to crimes of dishonesty such as aggravated burglary and stealing where the property involved is less than $5,000. Some matters cannot be heard in the...

Fundamental Legal Rights

Basic rights either derived from the common law or contained in legislation are as set out below. Rights of a Defendant in a Trial by Judge and Jury A person to be tried on indictment in the Supreme Court has the right to disclosure. Disclosure involves the prosecution giving copies of written ...

Search and Arrest

What are the powers of arrest, search and interrogation by police and other officials? What is an individual’s rights in these circumstances? Does a police officer need a warrant? This chapter explores the powers and duties of police and the rights of a person in contact with police as well as what happens when a person is arrested.

After Arrest

What happens after a person is arrested? This chapter explains the process post-arrest and details the types of action that a police officer can take (interview, questioning, statement and laying charges) and cannot take (involuntary confessions, malicious prosecution). Also considered is different types of bail and factors relevant to determining bail and bail conditions.

Hearing a charge against you: Magistrates

The minimum requirement before a person can become a magistrate is to be a qualified legal practitioner of at least five years standing. Most magistrates, in reality, are much more experienced than the five year minimum. Magistrates can also hear some matters contained in the Criminal Code, for e...

Guilty / Not Guilty

The question of ‘guilty or not guilty?’ is decided on the basis of a case being proved beyond reasonable doubt. If a magistrate (in the Magistrates Court) or jury (in the Supreme Court) is not satisfied that the prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt, the proper verdict is not gu...


When a person is found guilty of a crime or an offence both the Supreme Court and Magistrates Court have the following powers. The court may: Record a conviction and order that the defendant serve a term of imprisonment; or Record a conviction and order that the defendant serve a term...


This chapter explains what a sentence is, the source of sentencing law, the process of sentencing as well as the purpose and relevant considerations for the court in sentencing an offender. Different types of sentences are detailed (e.g. imprisonment, drug treatment orders and community service orders) and the particular laws applying to youths are discussed. The median (or average) sentence imposed for a number of offences is also provided.

Page last updated 13/03/2024

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