In a previous article we spoke about high-range PCA and the sentences passed down prior to 2004, compared to those passed down since that date. Prior to 2004 in, for example, Newcastle Local Court, 45% of high-range PCA matters were dealt with by “s10”. Basically, this means non-conviction, similar to a “warning”. After 2004, Newcastle dropped to 5%. Similar trends were observed at other Local Courts across the State.
This was as a result of a “Guideline Judgement” being handed down by the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal.
A Guideline Judgement, as the name suggests, gives guidelines to Local Courts in regard to sentencing of offenders. The guidelines are not binding but have a strong influence upon the decisions of Magistrates. Substantial departure from the guidelines would almost certainly result in an appeal by the prosecution against the leniency of the sentence.
The guidelines had a huge effect on sentences imposed in high-range PCA matters and to a lesser extent in mid-range and low-range offences.
The Court of Criminal Appeal described a typical scenario, to which all high-range PCA matters could be compared and stated that section 10 was not appropriate for such a case.
The model case is one where the offender drove to avoid inconvenience, was detected by random breath test, is of good character, nil or minor record, entered plea of guilty, little risk of re-offending and there will be inconvenience if the offender loses his licence.
These same factors were often relied upon in the past to ask for a leniency. Basically the Court has now said that the model case is normal and therefore the automatic disqualifications apply. If there were aggravating factors such as a crash, or previous record for this offence, it is now viewed that “a sentence less than full-time imprisonment would generally be inappropriate”. High Range PCA is an incredibly serious matter. It is strongly suggested that you instruct a criminal lawyer if you are faced with charges such as this.
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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.