Discharges are given for the least serious offences such as very minor thefts. The court may give an absolute discharge, which means it decides not to impose a punishment because the experience of going to court has been punishment enough. However, the offender still gets a criminal record.

A conditional discharge can also be given – this means that if the offender commits another crime, they can be sentenced for the first offence and the new one.

In 2017, 53,104 defendants were given a discharge, representing four per cent of all these sentences.

These statistics are taken from the Ministry of Justice’s criminal justice statistics publications.