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 of imprisonment that is wholly or partly suspended; or
- Record a conviction and make a community service order in respect of the offender; or
- With or without recording a conviction, make a probation order in respect of the offender; or
- Record a conviction and order the offender to pay a fine; or
- With or without recording a conviction, adjourn the proceedings for a period not exceeding 60 months and, on the offender giving an undertaking with conditions attached, order the release of the offender; or
- Record a conviction and order the discharge of the offender; or
- Without recording a conviction, order the dismissal of the charge for the offence; or
- Impose any other sentence or make any order, or any combination of orders, that the court is authorized to impose or make by the Sentencing Act or any other enactment.
It is permissible that a magistrate or judge not proceed to convict a person notwithstanding that that person’s guilt has been established either upon their trial or upon their own plea of guilty.
In the case of a conviction for murder, the fixed penalty until recently was a sentence of imprisonment for life. Sentences imposed for murder are now fixed terms. Prisoners previously sentenced to life imprisonment may apply to the Supreme Court for re-sentencing in order to obtain a fixed term sentence. A person can also be classified as a ‘dangerous criminal’ (s19, Sentencing Act 1997 (Tas)) and kept in custody indefinitely until the ‘dangerous criminal’ classification is revoked by a judge in the Supreme Court. Alternatively, an order can made that the life prisoner be dealt with by the mental health system. This is done through a restriction order, which requires a person to be admitted and detained in a secure mental health unit until they are no longer classified as a dangerous criminal (s77, Sentencing Act 1997 (Tas)).
Records of Convictions
The police will record all charges where there has been a finding of guilt against the defender whether or not that person has been convicted. These records are usually produced by the prosecution at the sentencing hearing and are normally relevant to the sentencing process. This information is also released when you apply for a National Police Check, which is now often standard procedure for job applicants to produce when applying for employment.
The Annulled Convictions Act 2003 (Tas), has had the effect of restricting disclosure of information about some minor convictions. This includes where a person with a minor conviction is of good behaviour for 5-10 years (s6, Annulled Convictions Act), or where the offence for which the person was convicted is no longer an offence under any law (s8). An annulment means that a person is not required to disclose the conviction to any other person and the annulled conviction is not part of the person’s official criminal record (s9).
There is no time limit to a charge on indictable offences, that is, crimes. However a complaint for an offence to be tried before a magistrate (summarily) must be laid within 6 months (s26, Justices Act) although that period can be extended in certain circumstances. Other Acts stipulate longer time limits.