Contributor – Peter Lynch
The Federal Government is responsible for creating the law about Commonwealth offences. The most commonly encountered Commonwealth offences are found in the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) and the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth).
The above provisions deal with sentencing for offences against Victorian law. These penalties do not generally apply to defendants sentenced for offences against Commonwealth law.
The penalties applicable to Commonwealth offences can be found in the section creating the offence or in a general provision in the Act itself. For example, conviction for a social security fraud offence involves imprisonment or a fine if the matter is dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court.
However, there are some penalties in the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) (“Crimes Act (Cth)”) that direct courts to penalties capable of general application to all Commonwealth offences. For example, non-conviction orders (i.e. adjournments with bonds) for Commonwealth offences may be made under section 19B of that Act. Section 20 of the Crimes Act (Cth) contains a provision similar to the suspended sentence option available to magistrates for state offences, in that a conviction and imprisonment may be suspended if the defendant agrees to certain conditions. It also provides for conviction with bond. A Magistrates’ Court, when sentencing a defendant convicted of a Commonwealth offence, is able to impose a CCO (s 20AB).
Unlike offenders against state law, offenders against Commonwealth law who receive a fine or CCO must receive a conviction.