When a person is convicted of a crime in Queensland, they will be sentenced to an appropriate punishment. This could be anything from a fine to a lengthy jail term.
Generally speaking, judges and magistrates have the power to decide what sentence should be given. The sentence however must be consistent with the law and also within an appropriate range.
This means, for example, it is simply impossible for a person to get a fine for murder. On the other hand, it is impossible for a person to go to jail for public urination.
When deciding what sentence should be imposed, the court has to take into account a number of different factors and the Penalties and Sentences Act provides guidelines to assist the court in considering these factors.
Some of these factors are referred to as “mitigating circumstances” and we will review these below.
What Does “Mitigating Circumstances” Mean?
The term “mitigating circumstances” means factors which may reduce punishment after conviction.
They are factors which the court should take into account to reduce the penalty that it would have otherwise imposed.
The law in Queensland specifically states that the court must pay attention to “the presence of any … mitigating factor concerning the offender”. Therefore, if a court fails to take into account a mitigating circumstance, it may impose an incorrect or even unlawful sentence which could be later appealed.
Examples of Mitigating Circumstances
There are a number of different mitigating circumstances that a court can take into account. Some of these include:
- Age: A person’s age (whether young or old) may suggest that the penalty should be reduced. For example, a young person may only be starting their future career and a serious penalty may impact this. Alternatively, an older person with no criminal history could argue that the offending was out of character.
- Health: A person’s physical or mental health could impact their sentence. For example, a person with serious health issues may be less likely to be jailed than a healthy person.
- The seriousness of the offence: The same offences can involve different levels of seriousness. As an example, a drink driving offence with a reading of 0.051% will be treated less seriously than a drink driving offence of 0.251% – even though they are both drink driving offences.
- Rehabilitation: A court will take into account an offender’s prospects of rehabilitation (fixing the harm they caused and not re-offending again). An offender’s sentence is likely to be reduced if they can prove that they have taken steps to make things better.
How To Show Mitigating Circumstances
You should do everything possible to increase the mitigating circumstances of your case if you are being sentenced in a Queensland court. It is also important that you produce evidence of these things.
For example, you should seek professional support and/or counselling if you struggle with drugs or alcohol. You can often start this process by speaking with your medical GP for advice and a referral.
You should also get some character references to show that your behaviour was out of character (if this is true). The references can come from friends, family members, work colleagues and so on.
There are countless different ways to show that your sentence should be reduced. Therefore, the best thing that you can do is contact an experienced criminal lawyer to discuss your options.