Suspended sentences were abolished in New South Wales in 2018. This page outlines why suspended sentences were abolished in the state and the other sentencing options that are now used instead of suspended sentences.
What is a suspended sentence?
A suspended sentence is a term of imprisonment that is suspended upon an offender entering into a good behaviour bond. The offender is then allowed to live in the community provided they abide by conditions. If the conditions are not breached, the term of imprisonment or detention does not have to be served. If the conditions are breached, the person will usually be ordered to serve some or all of the suspended term.
Suspended sentences still exist in many Australian jurisdictions.
Why were suspended sentences abolished in New South Wales?
In October 2017, the Berejiklian government passed the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Amendment (Sentencing Options) Bill, which overhauled the community-based sentencing options contained in the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999. Some of the most notable changes were the abolition of suspended sentences, good behaviour bonds, home detention orders and community service orders in New South Wales. The government claimed the reforms were needed because of the high number of offenders being allowed to serve community-based sentences without supervision.
Other community-based sentencing options
The Bill also introduced some other community-based sentencing options in New South Wales and made changes to some existing community-based sentencing regimes.
Intensive Corrections Orders
Intensive corrections orders already existed under the Act, but the changes made in 2017 strengthened them so that ICOs could be used instead of suspended sentences and home detention orders.
Intensive corrections orders are governed by section 7 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedures) Act 1999.
When a court sentences a person to imprisonment, it may order that the sentence be served by way of intensive correction in the community. This means that they live at home, subject to strict conditions, including that they do not commit any further offences and they agree to be supervised by a community corrections officer. There may also be conditional conditions imposed such as that the offender participate in specified programs, abstain from drugs or alcohol or abide by a curfew.
Community Corrections Orders
Community corrections orders replaced community service orders. They are governed by section 8 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999. When a court has found a person guilty of an offence and recorded a conviction, it may impose a community corrections order instead of a sentence of imprisonment.
A CCO may be imposed when offending does not warrant imprisonment but is too serious for a fine or a conditional release order. It may involve conditions that the offender must perform community work, be supervised by community corrections, or abide by a curfew depending on what is appropriate in the circumstances.
A CCO may be imposed for a period of up to three years.
Conditional Release Orders
Conditional release orders were introduced to replace good behaviour bonds. They are governed by section 9 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999. A conditional release order may be made either with or without the recording of a conviction.
When a person is sentenced to a CRO, they must agree not to commit a further offence and to appear before the court if called upon to do so within the period of the order. Additional conditions may also be imposed, such as participation in specified programs, supervision by community corrections or abstention from alcohol or drugs.
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