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, and the defendant must be provided with the opportunity to have further offences taken into account when dealing with the principal offence (if applicable) [Sentencing Act 2017 (SA) ss 31 - 35].
Other relevant matters 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 [Sentencing Act 2017 (SA) s 14]. The statement can be read aloud in court by the victim or another person, or can be considered prior to sentencing without being read aloud in court [Sentencing Act 2017 (SA) s 14(2)].
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 [Sentencing Act 2017 (SA) s 13].
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).
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.