Court: Pleading Guilty in Local Court

So far you have been arrested, charged, granted bail, turned up at Court, found the duty lawyer, and now we are entering a plea of guilty.

You will be sitting behind your lawyer, and the lawyer will announce your matter “If it may please the court, may I mention number XX in the charge list, the matter of Smith. My client wishes to plead guilty to the charges in sequences 1 and 2.”

The police then hand the facts sheet up to the Magistrate (remember we had the facts sheet altered last week). The alterations may be as simple as literally ruling a thick black line through the words so as to make them unreadable for the Magistrate.

It could be a whole paragraph has been deleted, or simple comments added by the police that are irrelevant or damaging to your case have been removed. In practice, this doesn’t happen too often as in the desire to “get it all done and over with”, accused people are tempted to just accept the allegations made. Unfortunately, this makes it extremely hard when making a mitigating plea or an appeal in District Court, when the facts have been agreed to.

So if we have no objection to the facts and we are satisfied your criminal record is accurate these documents are handed up to the Magistrate, who reads them whilst you sit anxiously awaiting the outcome.

If a matter is more serious, or your criminal record is significant or includes prior convictions for similar offences, the Magistrate may order a Pre Sentence Report (PSR). This is a sign that the Magistrate may be contemplating sending you to gaol, but he wants to consider other options first. The PSR will discuss your suitability to bonds, community service, periodic detention and other sentencing options. If you thought you were simply going to receive a fine, a PSR is horrible news. If you had packed your toothbrush for a holiday in the big house, a PSR is tremendous news.

If a PSR is ordered, the matter is adjourned until it is can be prepared, and then the all important sentencing day. This is when you need your lawyer to put your best case forward, and try and get you the most lenient sentence that they can.

This is called a plea in mitigation, and we will discuss the sort of things covered in a submissions in mitigation next week.

If you have any questions you would like answered either confidentially or via this medium, please email us at

This is intended for general information and does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Formal legal advice should be sought.

On February 16th, 2011, posted in: Know the Law by
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