Section 10 is a penalty that can be imposed in certain circumstances where a court finds that you have committed an offence but is of the view that there are reasons why a conviction should not be recorded against you.
Such a result is not common and properly so – it carries a great deal of leniency with it and can be seen by many as being “let off” by the court with nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
However it is an important tool in the impressive array of a court to ensure that crime is punished but in a way that is fair and reasonable.
Today we successfully applied to the court at Port Kembla, NSW that a client ought properly receive a section 10 penalty as punishment for the offence of possessing drugs. As with many people who receive such a punishment, exceptional reasons existed (including a tragic past and a truly difficult present).
A section 10 was the fair and just sentence imposed in a carefully considered judgement by an experienced magistrate. The benefit is that the courts, the community and the client receive the benefit of an ongoing supervision designed to ensure future good behaviour while at the same time, not depriving a first-time offender of the benefit of a clean record (with all the consequences that flow for employment and career opportunities).
While a section 10 will never be the normal outcome in a court room, it remains a powerful reminder of the ability of our criminal justice system to bend and shape the power of the law to suit the often very difficult circumstances of an individual case.