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Release from an obligation, debt, or liability, particularly the following.

1 Discharge of contract.

2 The release of a debtor from all provable debts (with minor exceptions) at the end of bankruptcy proceedings. In certain circumstances discharge is automatic. In other cases, the debtor or the official receiver may apply to the court for an order of discharge. This may be subject to conditions, such as further payments by the debtor to his creditors out of his future income, or it may be suspended until the creditors receive a higher proportion of the amount due to them. After discharge the debtor is freed from most of the disabilities to which he was subject as an undischarged bankrupt. See feature Bankruptcy Law.

3 The release of a convicted defendant without imposing a punishment on him. A discharge may be absolute or conditional. In an absolute discharge the defendant is not punished for the offence. His conviction may, however, be accompanied by a compensation order or by endorsement of his driving licence or disqualification from driving. A conditional discharge also releases the defendant without punishment, provided that he is not convicted of any other offence within a specified period (usually three years). If he is convicted within that time, the court may sentence him for the original offence as well. Three conditions are required for the court to order a discharge: (1) that a community sentence is not appropriate; (2) that the punishment for the offence must not be fixed by law; and (3) that the court thinks it inadvisable to punish the defendant in the circumstances.

Subjects: Law.

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