Is an absolute discharge a conviction?

07 August 2019

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question:

Does an absolute discharge at court appear as a conviction on a person's criminal record?

Answer:

Section 12 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 makes provisions for a magistrates' court to discharge a defendant absolutely or conditionally. Section 12(1) states:

'Where a court by or before which a person is convicted of an offence (not being an offence the sentence for which is fixed by law or falls to be imposed under a provision mentioned in subsection (1A)) is of the opinion, having regard to the circumstances including the nature of the offence and the character of the offender, that it is inexpedient to inflict punishment, the court may make an order either -

(a) discharging him absolutely; or

(b) if the court thinks fit, discharging him subject to the condition that he commits no offence during such period, not exceeding three years from the date of the order, as may be specified in the order.'

Therefore, an absolute discharge is technically a conviction. However, for the majority of purposes, it is not to be treated as a conviction. Section 14 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 states that a conviction of an offence for which an absolute discharge is given, shall be deemed not to be a conviction for any purpose other than the purposes of the proceedings in which the order is made and of any subsequent proceedings which may be taken against the offender under section 13 (Commission of further offence by person conditionally discharged).

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