nder the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic), an offender who pleads guilty may receive a lesser sentence than would otherwise have been imposed. A guilty plea may be relevant at sentencing for a number of reasons.
It may be taken as an indication of the defendant’s remorse or contrition, or an understanding of the wrongfulness of the conduct and a willingness to accept responsibility for it. When a guilty plea is considered for these reasons, it is being considered as an indication of the extent of the defendant’s culpability and potential for rehabilitation, rather than as a sentencing factor in it s own right.
The guilty plea also must be taken into account for its utilitarian value: the practical benefit that pleading guilty provides to the justice system. Section 5(2)(e) of the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) requires the court to have regard to the fact that a defendant has pleaded guilty and the stage of proceedings at which the defendant indicated his or her willingness to plead guilty.
The timing of the plea is relevant because, in determining its utilitarian value, the earlier the guilty plea is entered, the greater its potential value to the justice system. The court does not have to reduce the sentence because of the guilty plea, but if it decides that a reduction in sentence is justified, it can decide on the amount of the reduction at its discretion.