What is a section 10?
If you’ve been involved in a criminal case, or know someone who has, you may have heard of a section 10. But what actually is a section 10, and how can it help those who’ve been charged with a criminal offence?
What’s the thinking behind a section 10?
If someone is charged with a criminal offence, this can often stay with them for years, even after they’ve served out their sentence. It will appear on employment and loan applications, and may even impact fairly simple things like foreign travel and visa applications. Section 10 is a way of dismissing someone’s charges without proceeding to conviction. The charge then becomes spent and will not appear on such searches as employment and loan applications. It will however remain on your criminal record should you ever be involved in a criminal case again.
If someone pleads or is found guilty, the court is able to use a section 10 to dismiss all charges and will not record a conviction. The court will decide whether someone is eligible for a section 10, but it will normally depend on the person’s character, antecedents, age, health and mental condition, the offence itself, and any extenuating circumstances in which the offence was committed, as well as any other matter the court thinks is important.
What types of section 10 are there?
Section 10s can be broken down into three parts:
- The court orders that the charges are completely dismissed. This is put in place if the court finds that it is not advisable to inflict a normal punishment on the offender.
- The court orders the dismissal of charges on the condition that the guilty party enters into a good behaviour bond, which will last up to two years. Your offence will appear on your criminal record for the duration of the good behaviour bond.
- The court orders a discharge on the condition that they enter into an intervention program and comply with all intervention plans that arise from the program. This order will be made if the court is satisfied that it would reduce the likelihood of the person committing further crimes if they were to go through a treatment or rehabilitation program
What types of section 10 are there?
There’s a lot of false information out there regarding the section 10. However, none of the following is true:
- You can’t get a section 10 if you have a criminal record – again, there is nothing in the law that says this.
- You can’t get a section 10 more than once – there’s nothing in the law that says someone can’t receive more than one section 10. However, there is a list of “applicable offences” which mean you can’t get another Section 10 within 5 years of the original offence. These include drink or drug driving, menacing or negligent driving, reckless driving, and failure to help after a motor vehicle impact causing injury, death or grievous bodily harm.
- You cant get a section 10 if you plead not guilty and are then found to be guilty.
- You can’t get a section 10 for serious offences – you can technically get a section 10 for any offence as it depends on the circumstances surrounding it. However, the triviality of the offence is considered by the court when deciding whether someone is eligible for a section 10.
- Mental conditions can only be taken into account if they helped cause the offence. Mental illnesses don’t have to have caused the person to act against the law for a section 10 to be granted on these grounds.
Here at Ben Aulich, we don’t believe it’s fair that a criminal offence can stay with you for years after you committed it, especially if you serve your sentence. This is why section 10s are such an important part of New South Wales law.