Once you have been convicted of a crime, a Court will set your punishment in a variety of ways. You may have to pay a fine, post a bond, spend a period of time under the supervision of the probation officer, or some combination of the three. Or you may be sentenced to prison. This last punishment is usually reserved for the most serious of offences.

As bad as this all sounds, you really do not want to go to prison. Or if you must, you will want to spend as little time there as possible. This is why you need to know about pre-sentence reports. This is also why you need to work with a lawyer.

What is a pre-sentence report?

In NSW, a pre-sentence report summaries the circumstances of the offence and describes the offender’s situation. It generally includes information about the offender’s family situation, education, medical and psychological history, military service and assessed risk to the community.  It will be prepared by an officer from the Community Corrections department or Probation and Parole Service largely on the basis of an interview with you.

The pre-sentence report may be your last, best chance to appeal for clemency. It is to your advantage to take it seriously and to cooperate with Community Corrections to give them a reason for them to recommend an alternative to imprisonment, like community service, home detention or an intensive correction order.

Three things you need to do to make the pre-sentence report work for you

Here are three things you can do to improve your chances.

  1. Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible, even if you were not represented at the initial proceeding.
  2. Your attorney will have a good idea about the kind of mitigating factors the interviewer will be looking for and how to document these. Your attorney may recommend enrolling in a drug treatment or rehabilitation program or in school. His or her experience can also guide you about what the likely outcome is.
  3. Finally, especially if this is your first brush with the law, your lawyer may be able to offer some advice about how to appear as your best, most honest and straightforward self. This is an important interview. You should be prepared.

Show up for your interview.

This should be obvious, but it is surprising how many offenders simply lapse into a sense of denial. You cannot help yourself if you don’t show up. Go prepared describe your present situation and future prospects. Be prepared to give the names of family, friends or employers who can verify this information. If you fail to attend your interview, call and reschedule immediately.

Challenge its completeness and recommendations if necessary.

It is important you receive and have the opportunity to review your pre-sentence report before your next court appearance. Mistakes and omissions can happen. Community Corrections or Probation and Parole Service officers are busy bureaucrats and they may rely heavily on past experience and standardized language and recommendations. Nonetheless, courts rely usually follow the recommendations in a pre-sentence report, so it is important that it is as accurate as possible.

If your feel that the final report and recommendations do not reflect your circumstances or that at the report is incomplete or inaccurate, you may ask the court for permission to give evidence.  In some circumstances, your attorney may have the opportunity to cross examine the officer who authored the report.

Remember that this may not be the result of bias, but misunderstanding or incomplete information, Proceed carefully, however. This requires skilful legal counsel.

If you find yourself charged with a crime or if you have been convicted of one, please contact the attorneys at Owen Hodge Lawyers at 1800 770 780 as soon as possible. Our attorneys have a wealth of experience in dealing with pre-sentence reports and would be happy to work with you to procure the best possible outcome in an already difficult situation.