Absolute and conditional discharge

The following Corporate Crime practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Absolute and conditional discharge
  • What is an absolute discharge?
  • What is a conditional discharge?
  • Restrictions on the use of a discharge
  • Discharge and other court orders
  • Effect of a discharge
  • Breach of a conditional discharge
  • Procedure for breach of conditional discharge

Absolute and conditional discharge

This Practice Note reflects the procedural code for sentencing offenders in England and Wales (Sentencing Code) that applies from 1 December 2020, as set out in Parts 2–13 of the Sentencing Act 2020 (SA 2020). For those considering whether the Sentencing Code applies to their case, see Practice Note: Sentencing Code.

What is an absolute discharge?

An order for absolute discharge is an order discharging an offender absolutely in respect of an offence. An absolute discharge is the most lenient sentence available to the court.

It may be imposed where the court is satisfied that it would be 'inexpedient' to inflict a punishment on the convicted offender, taking into account the nature of the offence and the character of the offender.

An absolute discharge is usually only used where the court considers that the offender is technically guilty of an offence (and has been convicted) but otherwise blameless.

The making of an such an order does not prevent the court from imposing a disqualification other orders on the offender, see further below: Discharge and other court orders.

In practice, absolute discharges are fairly rare.

What is a conditional discharge?

SA 2020, s 80 provides another sentencing option available to the courts for less serious offences.

Where the court is satisfied (having regard to the nature of the offence and the character of the offender), that it is inexpedient to

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