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  • Summary Offences in Tasmania

    Summary offences are minor offences that are usually charged by the police department, unlike other serious (indictable) offences which the Director of Public Prosecutions commences charges at a court of higher jurisdiction. Local courts hear Summary offences.

    There are two types of criminal offences in Tasmania. Two different legislation exists for these two criminal offences being the Police Offences Act 1935 (Tas) and the Criminal Code Act 1924 (Tas). The two legislations define punishments for the crimes. Various courts hear both crimes.

    The first type is Summary Offences which the local court (Magistrates Court) hears. While the other is indictable offences that may be listened to in a Supreme Court.

    Summary offences in Tasmania are disclosed on a national police check in Tasmania. Summary offences are disclosed in accordance with the Spent Convictions Scheme of Tasmania.

    The Act in Tasmania

    Most of the summary offences come under the Police Offences Act 1935. Summary offences under the Police Offences Act are the following,

    However, criminal offences under the Criminal Code Act 1924 are more severe. They can be termed as indictable offences (in some cases summary offences), depending on the circumstances.

    Hearing for Summary offences

    The Magistrates Court hears summary offences in Tasmania.

    Courts for Summary offences in Tasmania

    All of the matters for Summary offences are heard initially in the Magistrates court. Summary offences are wound up at the Magistrates while serious violations, i.e., indictable offences, are transferred to a court of higher jurisdiction after the preliminary hearing. Then, the Supreme Court handles the cases.

    Diversion programs in the Magistrates Court

    There are two types of diversion programs in the Magistrate courts of Tasmania to facilitate summary offence hearings.

    The first one is the Court Mandated Diversion Program; this is basically for drug-related offences. This program provides an option to the drug offenders to divert them into drug use treatment.

    The second one is the Diversion List, which tackles an offender with mental health problems. In this program, the Magistrate is allowed to take and provide therapeutic responses to the offender.

    Arrests in Summary offences

    When someone performs a summary offence in Tasmania, the person can appear in the local (Magistrates) court. If the offender does not come to court in the summons answer, the court issues a warrant for their arrest.

    In some circumstances, a person charged with both indictable offence and the summary offence may be arrested and brought before the court concerning the summary offences.

    Entering a plea

    When an accused comes before the court concerning the summary offence, the matter is finalised by pleading the offender guilty and proceeding to sentence, or they will either adjourn the matter. The offender can then prepare their case by seeking legal advice.

    If the court decides that the offender is guilty, then the Magistrate will sentence them. However, if the accused still wants to plead not guilty, they can come back to the court to attend a contested mention and then a contested hearing. The defense lawyer views shreds of evidence, and if the matter entered into the stage of a contested hearing, they would inform the court of the witnesses (if any) and evidence.

    Penalties and Sentencing in the Tasmanian Criminal Legislation

    The Sentencing Act 1997 (Tas) determines the types of penalties for summary offences in Tasmania. Sometimes single penalties are imposed; sometimes, the court charges the accused with a mix of sentences. Sometimes guilty persons get penalties but are not subject to a conviction recorded.

    Types of sentences for Summary Offences

    Under the Sentencing Act 1997, the following are the types of sentences imposed due to Summary offences.

    • Custodian sentences;
    • Suspended sentences;
    • Drug treatment order;
    • Community service order;
    • Probation order;
    • Fines.

    Sentences and penalties will differ based on the differences in circumstances surrounding the case and the presence of aggravating factors.

    Sentencing Procedure in Tasmania

    The sentencing procedure by the Magistrate in summary offences is also present in the Sentencing Act 1997. This approach is necessary for the court to sentencing a suitable penalty, the need for a pre-sentence report, and a mediation report.

    The mediation report consists of the victims agreeing to meet the accused to discuss the actions which need to be taken by the offender.

    Sentencing Young People

    According to the Sentencing Act 1997, Tasmania has separate rules for young people. It applies to people aged ten or older but fewer than 18. Young people in Tasmania are sentenced under the Youth Justice Act 1997 (Tas) in the Youth Justice Division of the Magistrates court.

    The reasoning behind the separate Act is that young people are still learning and developing. The law of Tasmania believes that it shall not punish young accused persons brutally compared to adults.

    The purpose of sentencing in Tasmania

    The purpose of sentencing under the Sentencing Act 1997 is not only to punish offenders, but it is also for the betterment of situations. The objectives are the following:

    1. Just Punishment

    To punish the offender in a way that it sees fit in the circumstances.

    1. Deference

    The purpose is to discourage the offender from reverting them from doing the same acts again and again.

    1. Rehabilitation

    To create conditions, this will impose a law-abiding lifestyle on the offender for the future.

    1. Denunciation

    To condemn, denounce or criticise the behavior of the offender. To make it clear to society that the act was wrong.

    Offences related to Family Violence

    The Family Violence Act 2004 (Tas) explains the offences related to family violence in Tasmania. This act deals with economic abuse, violence, intimidation in a family environment and emotional abuse.

    This act governs the applications for a Police Family Violence Order (PFVO) and Family Violence Orders (FVO) in Tasmania. The act outlines who can make the order, the order against whom, what an order conveys, and the penalties for contravening a PFVO or an FVO. The difference between FVO and PFVO is that the FVO is an application designed for the court by the victim. Police organise a PFVO on behalf of the victim.

    The PFVO can only be designed by a police officer with the rank of Sergeant or above, only if they are satisfied that the offender has committed the offence or is likely to commit a crime related to family violence.

    Penalties for an offence related to Family Violence

    The penalties for contravening the PFVO or FVO are severe. They can include 12 months to 5 years of imprisonment. The Police can order the person to surrender firearms, vacate the premises, and not contact nor approach an affected person or a child.

    Domestic Violence Offences

    Domestic violence in Tasmania comes under the jurisdiction of Summary Offences. It includes all those types of domestic violence committed by an offender against a person or indirectly against their partner or spouse.

    All of the following offences are types of domestic violence offences in Tasmania:

    • Assault
    • Sexual assault
    • Abduction
    • Stalking
    • Threats, coercion
    • Economic abuse
    • Intimidation
    • Damage caused to property
    • Breaching an existing order
    • Attempting or threatening any of the above.

    Domestic violence offences have a maximum of two years of imprisonment.

    Driving offences in Tasmania

    Driving offences in Tasmania fall under summary offences. Driving offences include dangerous driving, speeding, failing to stop after an incident and drink driving offences. Some of these offences are tackled by issuing infringement notices rather than the court itself.

    The penalties for driving offences in Tasmania include fines, license suspensions, and/or periods of imprisonment.

    Minor Drug Offences in Tasmania

    Some minor drug offences in Tasmania fall under the summary offences category in Tasmania. Summary offences related to drug offences include self-administration of prohibited drugs, possession of prohibited drugs, sales and supply of medicines, and equipment used to administer medications.

    Drug offences fall under indictable violations when it includes high quantity drug sales and drug trafficking.

    The punishment and penalty for summary drug offences is a fine of 20 penalty units or up to two years of imprisonment.

    Do summary offences show up on a criminal history check in Tasmania?

    Summary offences are disclosed on a nationally coordinated criminal history check in accordance with the spent convictions scheme legislation.

    Individuals can obtain their police checks via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

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