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 community-based sentences are available, and when these sentencing options are available.
What is a community-based sentence?
A community-based sentence is a sentence that involves a person being released back into the community subject to conditions. It may involve very onerous conditions and strict supervision by community corrections, or it may involve only a condition not to commit a further offence and to attend court if called upon to do so.
A community-based sentence can be tailored to the individual situation of the offender and the causes of their offending. It can give them the opportunity to give back to the community, address the issues underlying their offending, and demonstrate to the court that they can avoid getting into further trouble.
Community-based sentencing in New South Wales is governed by the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999, which was overhauled in 2017. At that time, several sentencing options were abolished and some new types of orders were introduced.
The community-based sentences now available in New South Wales are outlined below.
Intensive correction orders
An intensive correction order can be made when the court has imposed a term of imprisonment for one or more offences. An ICO involves a defendant being ordered to serve their time under strict conditions while living in the community.
An ICO can only be imposed when:
- The person being sentenced is an adult
- The person has been sentenced to no more than two years imprisonment for a single offence or no more than three years for two or more offences
- The person is not being sentenced for an offence set out in section 67 of the Act such as murder, manslaughter or a prescribed sexual offence
The offender will be subject to strict conditions such as living at an approved residence and engaging in specific programs or other activities to address their offending. A breach of the conditions of an ICO may result in the offender being ordered to serve the rest of their term of imprisonment in prison.
Community corrections orders
A court may make a community corrections order instead of imposing a term of imprisonment. A CCO may be made when the court has found a person guilty of an offence and recorded a conviction. It is imposed when a matter is not serious enough to warrant a term of imprisonment but too serious to be dealt with by a fine or a conditional release order.
A CCO can be made for a period of up to three years.
When a person is released on a CCO, they must agree not to commit an offence during the period of the order and attend court if called upon to do so. Depending on the situation, additional conditions may also be imposed such as:
- To abide by a curfew
- To attend rehabilitation programs
- To abstain from alcohol or drugs
- Not to associate with specified people
- To be supervised by community corrections
Conditional release orders
A court may make a conditional release order with or without recording a conviction. A person sentenced to a CRO is released on conditions, chiefly the condition that they do not commit a further offence during the period of the order. CROs were introduced to replace good behaviour bonds.
Additional conditions may also be attached to a CRO such as a condition that the offender attend rehabilitation programs or abstain from drugs and alcohol.
CROs are a very lenient penalty and are generally imposed for minor offences or for a person’s first offence.
Community-based sentences that no longer exist
Until 2018, New South Wales courts had the power to sentence offenders to home detention orders, good behaviour bonds and suspended sentences. These sentencing options have now been abolished and can no longer be imposed in New South Wales.
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