What is a Section 10?
Section 10 is a clause in the NSW crimes act that allows a judge to dismiss a case, where the defendant has pled or been proven guilty, with a very minor punishment and no criminal conviction recorded. This means that minor crimes may not result in a criminal record, at the judge’s discretion.
Essentially, section 10 is used when the person is guilty but the judge considers that the offence is so minor that any real punishment would be disproportionate, given the effect that a criminal record can have on careers and on a person’s reputation. It is also usually necessary for the defendant to demonstrate good character and provide the court with extenuating or mitigating circumstances.
The law says that in order for a section 10 to be granted the court must consider:
(a) the person’s character, antecedents, age, health and mental condition,
(b) the trivial nature of the offence,
(c) the extenuating circumstances in which the offence was committed,
(d) any other matter that the court thinks proper to consider.
In practice, section 10 dismissals are usually only considered for charges such as minor traffic offences, drunk and disorderly conduct (as long as there are no concurrent charges such as assault) and drug possession (but not trafficking). However, courts have the right to impose a section 10 for more serious offenses if there are extenuating circumstances – they just rarely do.
A section 10 can come along with outright dismissal of all charges (section 10(1)(A)), a good behaviour bond of up to 2 years (section 10(1)(B)) or an order that the case is discharged on the condition that the guilty party enters and follows an intervention program (section 10(1)(C)(usually imposed when alcohol or drugs are involved in the crime).
Getting a section 10 isn’t easy – you need to prove that you are at the lower end of the offence committed, find reliable and respectable character references and offer extenuating circumstances. It helps to be young as well. However, the reward is that you get a much lighter punishment (if you get a punishment at all) and don’t get a criminal record.