Royal prerogative of mercy

What is the Royal prerogative of mercy?

The Royal prerogative of mercy is a broad discretion to dispense clemency. It is exercised in NSW by the Governor of New South Wales on the advice of the Executive Council as a matter of common law and is preserved by section 7 of the Australia Act 1986 (Cth), the Australia Act 1986 (United Kingdom), and Part 2A of the Constitution Act (NSW) 1902.

The Attorney General, as the Minister principally concerned with the administration of justice, is the Minister responsible for providing advice to the Governor in Council. There are, strictly speaking, no legal restrictions upon the sorts of matters that may be taken into account by the Attorney General when advising the Governor whether or not to exercise the prerogative. The Attorney General would normally consider advising the Governor to exercise the power only in circumstances of extreme hardship or on some other serious compassionate ground.

What are possible outcomes of a successful Royal prerogative of mercy petition?

Generally, the Royal prerogative of mercy takes one of the following four forms:

  • a free pardon
  • commutation or a conditional pardon substituting one form of punishment for another
  • remission, reducing the amount of a sentence without changing its character 
  • release on licence/early release to parole.

Further information about the possible outcomes of a successful Royal prerogative of mercy petition can be found in the Royal prerogative of mercy: fact sheet (PDF, 132.9 KB).

Is a pardon the same as an acquittal?

A pardon is not the equivalent of an acquittal. Being pardoned does not mean that court records or criminal history will be deleted or expunged. 

A pardon clears a person from all consequences of the offence but does not eliminate the conviction itself.

How can I have a conviction ‘removed’ or ‘quashed’?

The only body with the power to 'remove' a conviction is the Court of Criminal Appeal. A 'quashed' conviction is a conviction that has been set aside by the Court. This means the conviction has been overturned by the court and no longer has any legal or binding force.

Can the Royal prerogative of mercy remit (or write off) my unpaid fines?

Yes, though there are other avenues you may wish to consider. More information is provided on the Remission of fines page.

Can the Royal prerogative of mercy remit unexpired driving disqualification periods?

Yes, though there are other avenues you may wish to consider. More information is provided on the Remission of an unexpired period of driving disqualification page

I was convicted in the Local Court. How can I have my conviction or sentence annulled?

Local Court convictions and sentences can be annulled in certain circumstances. This process is set out on the Reviews of convictions and sentences page.

How can I have my conviction or sentence reviewed?

Convictions and sentences in the Local Court, District Court and Supreme Courts can be reviewed in certain circumstances. This process is set out on the Reviews of convictions and sentences page.

How do I petition the Governor for the exercise of the Royal prerogative of mercy?

All petitions should be sent to the following address or email address:

Attention: Colonel Michael Miller RFD
Official Secretary to the Governor of New South Wales
Government House
Macquarie Street 
SYDNEY NSW 2000

enquiries@governor.nsw.gov.au

What does my petition need to include?

The Royal prerogative of mercy: fact sheet (PDF, 132.9 KB) provides guidance on how to make a petition to the Governor. 

Last updated:

07 Dec 2022

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