Once a person has been convicted of an offence a judge may ask a probation officer to find out more about them so they can recommend what the most appropriate sentence should be.
The probation officer may:
- interview the offender
- make enquiries with the offender's family, friends and employer
- gather information from the police and Corrections.
After the probation officer has all the information, he or she will take into account what the law says about sentencing for the particular offence, and make a recommendation on what the most appropriate sentence would be. This is the pre-sentence report.
How the pre-sentence report helps sentencing
The pre-sentence report assists the judge to make a fully informed and appropriate decision about which sentence a person should receive and what support should be provided to them. Often these reports will also contain information regarding the suitability of electronic monitoring to be used in the final sentencing outcome.
Probation officers are often in court to provide immediate advice and information for sentencing, or to help make a decision on whether to remand a person.
If there’s a victim, and if requested by the judge, probation officers also provide reparation reports on how the offender can make amends to the victim.
The sentence recommendation in the report may include sentence conditions that aim to protect community safety and address the offender's rehabilitation needs.
Who can receive the pre-sentence report
The pre-sentence report can be given to the court, the offender, the offender's lawyer, and the prosecution lawyer. The judge considers the report, along with other information on the offender, and sentences the offender.
The sentencing laws state that people who have been convicted of an offence with an identifiable victim should have the opportunity to make amends to the victim.
The court can request a probation officer to complete a reparation report before the offender is sentenced. The probation officer finds out if the offender is willing and/or able to make reparation for the offending.
The reparation report includes information on the value of the loss or harm caused by the offending (including physical or emotional harm) and any consequential damage.
The court must take into account the financial circumstances of the offender and make a recommendation on what the offender should pay in reparation.