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Sentence Assessments Reports

In September 2018, there were significant changes made to sentencing in New South Wales courts. This included changes to the reports provided to the court to assist with sentencing. Community Corrections is the government department responsible for preparing and providing reports to the court for sentence, among other things. Community Corrections (previously Probation and Parole) would previously often be required to prepare a Pre-Sentence Report (PSR). Since the changes to the sentencing procedure in New South Wales, that report is now known as a Sentencing Assessment Report (SAR).

What is the Purpose of a Sentencing Assessment Report (SAR)?

A Sentencing Assessment Report (SAR), prepared by an officer of Community Corrections, is to assist the court in deciding on the appropriate sentencing order. An SAR will commonly be ordered where the court is considering sentencing an accused to imprisonment and wants to fully explore all the alternative to a custodial sentence.

Courts are only allowed to sentence offenders to imprisonment as a matter of last resort. There must be no other appropriate sentence to impose in the circumstances. An SAR assists the court to explore all the options available as an alternative to a full-time prison sentence.

When is a Sentencing Assessment Report (SAR) Required?

The court must obtain an SAR if it intends to order a:

Where a defendant is being considered for one of the above sentencing options, the SAR will assess whether this option is a suitable one for the person’s circumstances.

What Happens if the Court Orders an SAR?

If the court determines that a Sentencing Assessment Report (SAR) is required, the matters is usually adjourned for six weeks for a full SAR interview to be conducted and a report drafted. If a full SAR is ordered, the defendant will be required to attend a Community Corrections office in your own time, usually within seven days of the court appearance. The interview may take a few hours and then the court will be provided with the report prior to sentencing.

If the court wants the matter dealt with immediately, it may order a Sentencing Assessment Report (SAR) immediately, which is referred to as a “Duty SAR.” If a Duty SAR is ordered, this usually occurs on the day of sentence at court, prior to sentencing. You will be required to attend the Community Corrections office at the court and participate in an interview. The Community Corrections officer will then draft the report on the day and provide that to the court to assist with sentencing.

What Will I be Asked During the SAR Interview?

The interview will consist of questions relating to the following topics (depending on your offence), some of these may include:

  • the offence(s) committed;
  • your criminal record and prior offences;
  • your attitude to and insight into your offending;
  • the risk of re-offending;
  • whether you have had supervision in the past and your adherence to any previous orders;
  • whether you will benefit from supervision and the likelihood of Community Corrections suspending supervision;
  • your willingness or availability to participate in Community Service Work;
  • your health, mental health issues and any current treatment;
  • your financial circumstances; and
  • whether you have any drug and alcohol dependencies.

The Community Corrections officer is likely to ask you whether you are willing to undertake community service work or participate in an Intensive Corrections Order (ICO). The fact that you are asked these questions does not mean that this is the penalty the court is considering or will impose. It is important to carefully consider your position before refusing or declining to participate in community service work or an Intensive Corrections Order (ICO). If community service or an Intensive Corrections Order are not options available to the court because you have refused or declined, the risk of jail increases. Without these alternative sentencing options, the court may determine that the only appropriate sentence is full time jail.

Based on your responses and the type of offence committed, Community Corrections may find that certain sentencing options are not available.

It is important that you co-operate fully with the officer, as the officer will make recommendations as to an appropriate sentence in their report.

What Does the Court Do with the SAR?

The court will review the Sentencing Assessment Report (SAR) and take its recommendations into consideration when sentencing. The recommendations made in the SAR are not binding on the court, with the exception that the court cannot make a community service or home detention order unless you are deemed suitable for those options. The recommendations contained in the report and content of the report itself usually has some persuasive force and may be adopted by the Court. A favourable report often translates to a more favourable sentence.

If you require advice on Sentencing Assessment Reports or any other legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Tyson Brown

This article was written by Tyson Brown

Tyson Brown holds a Bachelor of Business from Swinburne University, a Juris Doctor from RMIT and a GDLP from ANU. He is admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the High Court of Australia. Tyson is a valued and trusted member of the Criminal Law team, having first joined Armstrong Legal over five years...

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