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Discharges are given for the least serious offences.
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 2011, 93,033 defendants were given a discharge, representing 7 per cent of all these sentences.

All of these statistics are taken from the Ministry of Justice’s criminal justice and sentencing statistics publications.