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Forum Sentencing (NSW)

Forum sentencing is a sentencing option that is available in New South Wales Local Courts. It brings together the offender, victims, and any other person affected by a crime. Its purpose is to find creative solutions to repair the harm done to the victim and the community and reduce the offender’s likelihood of re-offending.

Forum sentencing consists of a meeting where parties discuss what happened and how people were affected by the crime. They then prepare an ‘intervention plan’ for the offender. This intervention plan is then to be completed as part of the offender’s sentence. Outcomes of the plan may include a verbal or written apology, voluntary work, compensation, counselling, driver education and anything else the group feels is appropriate.

Why apply for Forum Sentencing?

Being part of the Forum Sentencing scheme presents significant benefits including:

  • Potentially leading to a better outcome than the mainstream court process because the successful completion of the forum sentencing program reflects favourably on a person, which may mean lighter a sentence
  • Enabling a person to improve their long-term quality of life
  • Helping a person break the cycle of crime which reduces their chances of reoffending.

You must be aware that Forum Sentencing imposes onerous requirements. If you do not complete the intervention plan the court may issue a warrant for your arrest and you may be required to reappear in court.

Am I eligible for Forum Sentencing?

You must meet the following requirements to be eligible for the scheme:

  • Be referred by the court or successfully apply to be referred
  • Be over the age of 18
  • Be appearing before one of the following Local Courts: Ballina, Balmain, Bankstown, Bellingen, Belmont, Burwood, Byron Bay, Camden Campbelltown, Casino, Central, Coffs Harbour, Downing Centre, Fairfield, Gosford, Grafton, Kogarah, Kyogle, Lismore, Liverpool, Macksville, Maclean, Moss Vale, Mullumbimby, Murwillumbah, Newcastle, Newtown, Parramatta, Picton, Raymond Terrace, Ryde, Sutherland, Toronto, Tweed Heads, Waverley, Woy Woy or Wyong
  • Plead or be found guilty
  • Be facing the likelihood of a prison sentence
  • Be willing to participate
  • Pass the suitability test by the Program Administrator.

Disqualification from the program may occur if you:

  • Are charged with an indictable offence
  • Have been charged with certain other serious offences.

What is involved?

There are 7 steps you will go through if you become part of the Forum Sentencing Program:

1) Court identifies potential participants – after you plead or are found guilty the court considers your eligibility to participate in a forum. If the Magistrate and you agree to be part of the program you will meet with a Forum Sentencing Program Administrator for assessment.

2) Program Administrator confirms whether the offender is suitable – after the Program Administrator assesses you they send their recommendations to the court to be processed.

3) Court confirmation of eligibility – the court will confirm whether you are eligible based on the finding of the Program Administrator and may then arrange for a facilitator for a forum to take place.

4) Preparing for forum – the facilitator will then meet with the victim, yourself, police officer in charge of the case, and other relevant people to explain how forum sentencing operates and how they can participate.

5) Forum is held and setting a plan – Participants meet at the forum to discuss what happened, how it affected the victim, and how things can be made better. Participants develop a plan with the intention of repairing harm to the victim and the community and reducing the offender’s likelihood of reoffending. You will be given a list of specific actions you must agree to undertake.

6) Back to court – The plan is sent back to court to be considered. If the Magistrate approves then you are to undertake the list of actions prior to or as part of the sentence.

7) Carrying out the plan – once you complete the plan the Program Administrator will notify the court. If the plan was part of a sentence and all other parts of the sentence have been completed the matter is finalised. If the case was adjourned to allow the actions detailed in the plan to be undertaken the court considers the offender’s completion of those actions during sentencing.

If you or any other relative are eligible for the Forum Sentencing please call us for further assistance and representation.

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

Michelle Makela

This article was written by Michelle Makela

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...

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