A discharge is the release of an offender without imposing any penalty after convicting him or her of an offence. This is an exceptional order and may be made if the Magistrate takes the view that it is inexpedient to inflict any punishment other than a nominal punishment on the offender (having regard to the character, antecedents, age, health or mental condition of the offender or to the trivial nature of the offence or to the extenuating circumstances under which the offence was committed) (see Section 36 of the Magistrates Ordinance (Chapter 227)).
An absolute discharge bears no conditions, although a criminal conviction is still recorded against the offender. Where a conditional discharge is given by a Magistrate, the offender is required to enter into a recognizance, with or without sureties, in a sum not greater than $2000, to be of good behaviour by not doing certain prohibited acts, and to appear for sentence when called on at any time during a fixed period up to three years. If the offender commits the prohibited acts during the prescribed period, that offender may be required to pay the recognizance amount or be punished by the court for the original offence.
A judge of the District Court or the Court of First Instance of the High Court also has the power to order conditional discharge of an offender after conviction under Section 107 of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance (Chapter 221) and the recognizance amount may even exceed $2,000.