What is a Sentencing Assessment Report?8 December 2021 in Criminal Law
A Sentencing Assessment Report (SAR) is a report which aids the court in deciding on an appropriate sentencing order when finding alternatives to a full-time prison sentence. These reports are ordered by the Magistrate after a plea of guilty or a finding of guilt and prepared by an independent officer from the Community Corrections.
The two common forms of SAR
There are two common forms of SAR, a “full” SAR and a Duty SAR.
A “full” SAR requires the matter to be adjourned for usually six weeks as the interview is undertaken and a report is created. Generally, within a week of the order being made, you will have to have attended a Community Corrections office and completed the interview, which may take a few hours. The subsequent report is then provided to the court prior to sentencing.
A Duty SAR allows the court to continue to proceed with the matter, occurring prior to sentencing, on the day of sentence at court. The interview will be held at the Community Corrections office at the court and the report will be provided to aid in sentencing.
What might be asked in the SAR Interview?
Depending on your offence, the questions in the interview may include:
- the offence or offences that you committed;
- your prior offences and criminal record;
- your cooperation with any previous orders and effectiveness of any past supervision;
- your risk of re-offending;
- your attitude to and insight into your offending;
- any health or mental health issues and existing treatment;
- any drug or alcohol dependency;
- your financial circumstances;
- what degree of benefit you will get from supervision and the chance that Community Corrections suspend that supervision; and
- your availability and/or willingness to participate in Community Service Work.
Being positive regarding an Intensive Correction order or community service can help to decrease the risk of jail. However, just because you are being asked these questions does not guarantee that these are the penalty that the court is potentially going to impose.
How is the SAR applied?
The court will consider the SAR’s recommendations when sentencing, however, is only bound by the report in that the court is not able to make a community service or home detention order unless you have been deemed suitable for these orders in the report. Generally, a favourable report can lead to a more favourable sentence
SAR’s and the Children’s Court
The Children’s Court is required to complete a Juvenile Justice Background Report (JJBR) before they are able to sentence a young person to a period of imprisonment or control order. This JJBR is ordered when there is a plea or finding of guilt.
The young person, their family and relevant services (e.g. psychologists and Family and Community Services) is interviewed by an independent officer from Juvenile Justice in the preparation of the JJBR. The JJBR will make recommendations regarding the appropriate penalties for sentencing.
It is very important to be open and honest in the interviews for the SAR and JJBR and co-operate fully with the officer. These are one of the court’s primary mechanisms to better understand the offence, your insight and remorse regarding the offence and your personal circumstances. The officer will also make recommendations regarding what they deem as an appropriate sentence in their report.