Community-Based Sentences (NSW) | Armstrong Legal

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This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom - Content Editor - Brisbane

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

Community-Based Sentences (NSW)

When New South Wales courts sentence people for criminal offences they must choose the appropriate sentencing orders based on the circumstances of the offending and the circumstances of the offender. Options available to the court include fines, terms of imprisonment and community-based sentences. This article outlines what community-based sentencing is, what specific types of community-based sentences are available, and when they are available.

What is a community-based sentence?

A community-based sentence is a sentence that allows an offender to stay out of prison and serve their sentence in the community instead. A community-based sentence gives a person an opportunity to give back to the community and address the issues underlying their offending. All community-based sentences come with strict conditions requiring the person to do specific things such as take part in drug or alcohol counselling, report to a supervisor, or regularly see a psychologist or psychiatrist.

The main legislation that governs community-based sentencing in NSW is the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999. Types of community-based sentences available in New South Wales include:

  • Intensive correction orders;
  • Community service orders;
  • Good behaviour bonds;
  • Extended supervision orders.

When are community-based sentences available?

Each type of community-based sentence and when it is available is outlined below.

Intensive correction orders

An intensive correction order involves a defendant being ordered to serve their time under strict conditions in the community. For an intensive corrections order to be made, the offender must have been sentenced to a period of two years imprisonment or less and no punishment other than prison is possible.

The offender must not have been found guilty of a sexual offence and the supervisor must deem the person suitable for the program. The offender must also be subject to strict conditions such as living in an approved residence, completing a minimum of 32 hours of community service per month, and engaging in activities to address their offending.

A breach of these conditions may result in the offender being ordered to serve the rest of their time in prison.

Community service orders

A community service order is an alternative to prison that involves the offender being ordered to do up to 5000 hours of unpaid work in the community. The courts make community service orders under the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW).

Community service orders are generally not made for serious offences, particularly offences of a sexual nature. Below is a list of the number of hours an offender can expect to be ordered to work under a community service order in place of different levels of imprisonment.

Number of hoursLevel of imprisonment
100 hoursNot more than six months imprisonment
200 hoursBetween six and 12 months imprisonment
500 hoursMore than 12 months imprisonment

The offender may be ordered to do work such as planting trees, removing graffiti, working with homeless people, or anything else the supervisor deems suitable. Conditions that apply include the offender having to sign on and off each day, working up to eight hours a day, and pulling their weight when doing so.

Breach of the conditions can lead to the offender having to complete more hours of unpaid work or serve a term of imprisonment.

Good behaviour bonds

A good behaviour bond is a period of time during which the offender must be of good behaviour (Ie. not commit any further offences punishable by a term of imprisonment) to avoid jail.

There are three types of good behaviour bonds in New South Wales:

  • A section 9 good behaviour bond;
  • A Section 10 good behaviour bond; and
  • An extended supervision order

Community-based sentences that no longer exist

Until 2018, New South Wales courts had the power to sentence offenders to Home Detention Orders and Suspended Sentences. These sentencing options have been repealed and can no longer be imposed in New South Wales.

Extended supervision orders

Under the Crimes (High Risk Offenders Act) 2006 (NSW), the New South Wales Attorney-General can use an extended supervision order to keep a prisoner in custody, even if they have finished their sentence. These orders are available only if the offender is a danger to the community and likely to re-offend. If the person has been released, the order can be used to make sure they abide by strict conditions in the community. Breaching those conditions automatically results in the person going back to prison.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal. 

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