Pleading Guilty in the WA Magistrates Court – What You Need to Know

Pleading Guilty in the WA Magistrates Court – What You Need to Know

If you or someone you know has been charged with an offence which is being dealt with in the Magistrates Court and you’re planning on pleading guilty, then this may be worth a read.

First and foremost, a discount of up to 25% on the sentence can be available for an early guilty plea. In other words, the earlier you plead guilty the more likely you are to receive a 25% discount. If you’re in line for a possible period of imprisonment (whether suspended or immediate) or a hefty fine then this becomes very important.

Second, show up to Court. It sounds simple but experience show that heavier sentences tend to be imposed on people who simply enter a guilty plea in writing (or worse, do not respond to the Court summons at all and are convicted in their absence) and then don’t show up on the day without at least providing a credible explanation for their non-attendance.

Once your guilty plea has been entered you will then be sentenced. This may be done immediately following your plea of guilty on the same Court date, or it may be at a later (adjourned) Court date. There are many reasons why an adjournment to a later sentencing date may occur or be sensibly sought in certain circumstances. These include, for example the Court wanting to obtain a pre-sentence report or you reasonably needing more time to obtain documents which may support a plea in mitigation on your behalf.

The ordinary practice in the Magistrates Court is for verbal submissions made during a plea in mitigation to be made from the ‘bar table’ by you (if self-represented) or your lawyer on your behalf. However, verbal submissions should be backed up by documentary evidence wherever possible. For example, asserting that you are a seeing a counsellor and have written a letter of apology is helpful, but the same assertion will carry more weight with a Magistrate if you can produce a letter from your counsellor and a copy of your letter of apology.

It is also often helpful to obtain one or two good quality character references. These references need to be addressed to ‘The Presiding Magistrate’ at the Court registry hearing the matter and identify that the person providing the reference is aware of the charge/s against you. They should set-out that (hopefully) you are of otherwise good character and that the person believes you will not make the same mistake again (ie you will not reoffend). It is advisable to have references from people who have known you for many years, and not Johnny from Ellenbrook who you met for the first time on your last FIFO swing or Kate from the school canteen who you’ve known for 3 months.

Depending upon the nature of the charge/s, it may also be appropriate to engage in programs such as drug and alcohol counselling or an anger management course. Voluntary engagement in programs coupled with positive progress reports from the providers can assist mitigate a sentence in some instances. In any event, it shows a willingness to address your behaviours which may have contributed to the offending and this will not go unnoticed by a Magistrate.

If you have a criminal record then the Magistrate will receive a copy of it and may want to know about any previous offences of a similar nature. Prior convictions for the same type of offending are particularly relevant for sentencing purposes and often second and subsequent offences will attract much heavier (and in many cases mandatory) penalties.

Finally, if you intend to apply for a Spent Conviction Order (and it is appropriate to do so) then obtaining supporting documentation as to the reason/s why you should be granted one is often crucial. For example, if your employment requires that you have a clean criminal record then having a letter from your employer stating that you may lose your employment if a conviction is recorded against you will help inform the Court about the merit of your application.

Now, if you’ve read this far and have concluded that you may actually need someone in your corner for your sentencing, then now is probably the time to obtain some practical advice.
Austral Legal can help and we offer an initial discounted 30-minute SmartMove appointment for $80 (by phone or in person). Bookings can be made online (it’s that easy) and as you can probably tell, we like helping people out.