Community service order


A community service order (CSO) can involve either unpaid work in the community at a place specified by probation and parole or attendance at a centre to undertake a course, such as anger management.

In order to be eligible for a community service order you have to be assessed by an officer of the probation service as suitable to undertake the order. Certain medical conditions could exclude you from being suitable to undertake a CSO. Federal Courts also have the power to impose a community service order for commonwealth offences under section 20AB Commonwealth Crimes Act, 1914.

Maximum hours of community service work

The maximum number of hours of community service that a court can impose is:

  • 100 hours:
    where the maximum term of imprisonment that can be set by the court does not exceed six months.
  • 200 hours:
    where the maximum term of imprisonment that can be set by the court does not exceed one year.
  • 500 hours:
    where the maximum term of imprisonment that can be set by the court exceeds one year.

You cannot be directed to perform more than eight hours of community service work in any one day or participate in a development program for more than five hours in any one day, except by agreement with the assigned officer.

Suitability for community service work

Before a CSO can be imposed by the court it must be satisfied that:

  • You are suitable person for community service work;
  • It is appropriate in all of the circumstances that you be required to perform community service work;
  • There are arrangements in the area in which you live or intend to live for you to perform community service work; and
  • The community service work can be provided in accordance with those arrangements.

Breaching a community service order

If you do not complete the hours set by the court within the time set by the court, the probation and parole service may advise the court and a summons be issued for you to attend and answer the allegation. If you admit to breaching the CSO, the court can revoke the order and impose a more severe penalty which can include full time prison. Breaches of a CSO are regarded seriously by the courts as a CSO is an alternative to full time prison.

The court of Criminal Appeal in the decision of R v Morris said that if leniency is extended inappropriately:

there is a very real risk that the whole regimen of non-custodial sentencing options will be discredited both in the eyes of those members of the community who might otherwise have continued to support them and in the eyes of magistrates and judges; and there is a substantial risk that courts, of their own motion but also reflecting in a general way community opinion, may become increasingly reluctant to extend to offenders those lesser sentencing options which the legislature has provided. It is therefore extremely important that breaches of non-custodial sentencing orders be brought promptly to the notice of the sentencing court and there be dealt with swiftly and, generally speaking, in a manner which will demonstrate how seriously such breaches are regarded and must be regarded in the community interest.”

When resentencing an offender for breaching a community service order, the court must take into account any time for which the offender was held in custody.

The court must also take into account the fact that you were subject to a community service order and anything you have done in compliance with the obligations under the order.

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