Judges and magistrates are trained to be independent. They listen to the prosecution and to the defence and choose from a range of sentences.
Under the Sentencing Act imprisonment is not an option unless the offender has shown violent behaviour towards people, is likely to commit another serious offence, has previously been convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment, or the offence is so serious that no other punishment would fit the crime.
Parole is the release of a prisoner on certain conditions for the remainder of his/her sentence. If the offender is sentenced to imprisonment, the court will set a non-parole period. A non-parole period is the amount of time the offender must serve before being considered for release on parole. At the end of the non-parole period the Parole Board decides whether an offender will be released on parole. The Board considers the prisoner’s behaviour and prospects of rehabilitation.
Sometimes, as in the case of a very violent crime, a non-parole period is not set and the person must remain in gaol for the entire prison sentence.
Suspended sentence and bond
If the sentence is imprisonment, the court will decide if there is a good reason to suspend the sentence. This might be the case for young first time offenders with reasonable prospects of rehabilitation.
Offenders then sign a bond under which they promise to be of good behaviour for a set period of time and to comply with the conditions set out in the bond or promise. They are released, usually under the supervision of a probation officer. If they keep their promise during this time they do not have to go to prison. If a person breaks the promise, he or she is guilty of the offence of breaching the bond. He or she usually has to return to prison, serve out the rest of the original sentence and do extra time for breaching the bond.
A fine is a sum of money that a court orders an offender to pay.
Compensation is a payment designed to make amends for personal injury, death, or damage to or loss of property. Confiscation is the seizure of goods from an offender. For example, private property or drugs may be confiscated.