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This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (state and federal industrial tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

Community Service Order (CSO)


A Community Service Order (CSO) involves either unpaid work in the community at a place specified by Community Corrections or attendance at a centre to undertake a course, such as anger management. In order to be eligible for a CSO you have to be assessed by an officer of the Community Correction Service as suitable to be placed on the order.

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 1 year.
  • 500 hours: where the maximum term of imprisonment that can be set by the court exceeds 1 year.

Definition of Community Service Order

Section 8 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 is where this type of penalty is found. Section 8 states:

  • instead of imposing a sentence of imprisonment on an offender, a court may make a community service order directing the offender to perform community service work for a specified number of hours.
  • the number of hours specified in a community service order in relation to an offence must not exceed 500, or the number of hours prescribed by the regulations in respect of the class of offences to which the offence belongs, whichever is the lesser.
  • this section does not apply to an offender to whom the Children (Community Service Orders) Act 1987 (NSW) applies.
  • this section is subject to the provisions of Part 7.

Is a Community Service Order a Conviction and Will I Have a Criminal Record?

If you are sentenced to Community Service, then you will be convicted of an offence, and it will appear on your criminal record.

Can You Travel Overseas While on a Community Service Order?

Being able to travel overseas whilst on a Community Service Order depends on:

  • any scheduled work or programs that you are supposed to be doing whilst you intend to travel; and
  • the visa requirements of the particular country you intend to enter.

You should speak to your Community Services Officer before making any plans, and get some specific legal advice about your personal situation if you are unsure.

Suitability for a Community Service Order

Before a CSO can be imposed, the court 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;
  • the arrangements exist 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

People commonly encounter problems with being assessed as suitable due to:

  • unresolved mental health issues;
  • drug/alcohol issues;
  • physical disabilities or injuries (that might mean you can’t perform certain types of work);
  • work commitments that mean that you could not perform Community Service in the programs that are available.

Breaches of Community Service Orders

If you do not complete the community service hours set by the court within the given time, fail to turn up for your work, or don’t attend appointments set by community corrections, corrections may advise the court and a summons be issued for you to attend court to answer the allegation of you breaching the CSO. If you admit breaching the CSO the court can revoke the order and impose a more severe penalty which can include full-time jail. Breaches of CSO are regarded seriously by the courts as a CSO is an alternative to full-time jail.

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

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