Discharges are given for the least-serious offences such as very minor thefts.
A discharge means that the person is released from court without any further action. But they will still get a criminal record.
The court may give an offender an absolute discharge. This means that the court has decided not to impose a punishment because the experience of going to court has been punishment enough.
The court can also give a conditional discharge. This means that, if the offender commits another crime, they can be sentenced for the first offence and the new one.
A discharge can be combined with an order for disqualification, payment of compensation or court costs.
In 2021, around 29,000 offenders were given a discharge, representing three per cent of offenders sentenced. (These statistics are taken from the Ministry of Justice’s criminal justice statistics publications.)