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What Is an Aggregate Sentence In NSW?

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In New South Wales, when an individual is sentenced for multiple offences, the court may opt to impose an aggregate sentence of imprisonment. This legal term refers to the practice of combining the criminal penalties for multiple offences into a single, cohesive term of imprisonment.

Imposing an Aggregate Sentence: A Closer Look

When a person is found guilty of committing a number of criminal offences, the court has the authority to impose separate terms of imprisonment for each offence. However, under certain circumstances, the court may choose to impose an aggregate sentence of imprisonment, as outlined in section 53a of the Crimes Sentencing Procedure Act 1999.


According to Section 53A(2), a court must inform the offender and keep a written record when imposing an aggregate sentence. This record should include the fact that an aggregate sentence is being imposed (Section 53A(2)(a)) and the sentence that would have been given for each offence if separate sentences were imposed, taking into account relevant factors in Pt 3 or any other provision of the Act (Section 53A(2)(b)).


It is important to note that failure to comply with Section 53A does not render the aggregate sentence invalid (Section 53A(5)). The Local Court is not allowed to impose an aggregate sentence exceeding 5 years (Section 53B). Additionally, a court has the discretion to establish a non-parole period after determining the term of the aggregate sentence (Section 44(2A)).

An aggregate sentence is the amalgamation of the individual terms of imprisonment for each offence, resulting in a single, total sentence. This total sentence must reflect the gravity of the offences committed while adhering to legal guidelines. It is important to note that the total sentence cannot exceed the maximum allowable term for the most serious offence.


Consecutive Sentences vs. Aggregate Sentences


In cases where the court imposes separate sentences for each offence, the convicted individual serves these sentences consecutively, meaning one after the other. Conversely, an aggregate sentence is served concurrently, meaning that the terms of imprisonment run concurrently with each other, resulting in a shorter overall period of incarceration.


The aggregate sentencing scheme in section 53A is applicable to Commonwealth offenders who are being sentenced for multiple Commonwealth offences as well, as illustrated in the case of DPP (Cth) v Beattie [2017]. Nonetheless, it is not possible to impose a collective sentence for a mix of Commonwealth and State offences.


Eligibility for Parole and Parole Period


One of the significant advantages of an aggregate sentence is that it may make the convicted individual eligible for parole sooner than if separate sentences were imposed.


The parole period is contingent on various factors, including the nature of the offences, the individual’s behaviour while incarcerated, and the recommendations of parole authorities. This offers an opportunity for rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

Calculating an Aggregate Sentence

Determining the appropriate aggregate sentence involves a careful evaluation of the offences, and number of offences committed and their respective penalties. After identifying the individual sentences that would have been given, the court must then use the principle of totality to decide on a suitable overall sentence: ZA v R [2017]. It is not necessary to precisely specify any hypothetical accumulation of the separate sentences.


The court takes into account the severity of each offence, any mitigating or aggravating factors, and any previous criminal record of the convicted individual. The final sentence must be just and proportionate to the overall criminal behaviour.


Implications for Offences Committed


The decision to impose an aggregate sentence carries significant implications for the convicted individual. It streamlines the sentencing process, ensuring that the punishment aligns with the collective severity of the offences. Additionally, it allows for a more efficient allocation of resources within the penal system, as the individual serves a single, consolidated term of imprisonment.

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Legal Advice

While aggregate sentences serve a crucial purpose in the criminal justice system, they are not without their complexities. Determining an appropriate total sentence requires a thorough understanding of the legal framework and careful consideration of the unique circumstances of each case. It is imperative for legal professionals to navigate this process diligently to uphold the principles of justice.


In NSW, an aggregate sentence of imprisonment provides a mechanism for the courts to effectively address cases involving multiple offences. By combining the penalties for these offences into a single, cohesive term of imprisonment, the legal system strives to ensure that justice is served equitably.


Understanding the nuances of aggregate sentences is essential for both legal professionals and the public at large, as it contributes to a more transparent and effective criminal justice system in New South Wales. If you are coming up for a sentence in the Local Court of NSW or the District Court of NSW, contact our criminal lawyers in Liverpool.

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