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What is Probation?

In Queensland, a Probation Order is considered when an offender has been found guilty of an offence for which prison is an appropriate sentence but where the offender would benefit from supervised rehabilitation in the community.

How do you define probation?

Probation is a community-based order that places the offender under the supervision of the Probation and Parole Service and requires them to comply with listed conditions.

The effect of a Probation Order is described in section 92 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992.

Under section 91, if the court convicts an offender, it can:

  • choose whether or not to record a conviction, and release an offender on a Probation Order of between six months and three years;
  • if it records a conviction, sentence an offender to a prison term of no longer than one year and rule that upon their release, the offender will be subject to a Probation Order of between nine months and three years.

Probation Order conditions

Under section 93(1),  a Probation Order must contain requirements that an offender:

  • commit no further offence during the period of the order;
  • report to a Probation and Parole Service officer at the place and time directed
  • receive visits from the officer as directed;
  • participate in programs or counselling as directed;
  • notify the officer of any change to their address or employment within two business days of the change;
  • stay in Queensland, unless permission is granted to leave the state;
  • comply with every reasonable direction of the officer.

Under section 94, a judge or magistrate can impose further conditions that the court thinks are necessary to help the offender rehabilitate and stop committing offences.

Those further conditions could include:

  • medical, psychiatric or psychological treatment;
  • conditions the court considers are needed for the offender to behave in a way that is acceptable to the community.

Who is suitable for a Probation Order?

A Probation Order is considered when the offender:

  • has a limited criminal history;
  • is not subject to a suspended sentence;
  • shows a capacity to address their offending behaviour;
  • is likely to benefit from supervision and guidance to address their needs – such as overcoming drug addiction or gambling – with support via structured case management;
  • is willing to accept the conditions and time frame of the order.

Explaining the Probation Order

Under section 95, the court must explain the Probation Order to the offender, in a way they can readily understand. It must explain:

  • the purpose and effect of the order;
  • consequences of contravention of the order;
  • that the order can be amended or revoked on application by the offender.

Breach of a Probation Order

It is an offence to breach any requirement of a community-based order, under section 123 of the Act.

If an offender breaches a Probation Order and is resentenced for the original offences, a conviction must be recorded. A fine can also be imposed. The penalties vary depending on the nature and severity of the breach.

Also, a probation order can be revoked or amended and the offender resentenced if they are unable or unwilling to comply with the order, or if the offender’s circumstances were not accurately presented to the court when the order was imposed.

Community Service Order

A Probation Order can be combined with a Community Service Order.

A Community Service Order requires an offender to perform unpaid community service under the supervision of a Probation and Parole Service officer. The order must be for between 40 and 240 hours of community service, which must be completed within one year of the order or by another date set by the court.

The purpose of this order is to provide reparation to the community as well as prompt the offender to change their behaviour by forming social contacts, establishing work habits and gaining satisfaction from helping others.

This order also requires the offender to report to an officer at a time and place specified.

An offender is deemed suitable if they:

  • have a limited criminal history
  • are willing to accept the conditions
  • are not suffering from a medical or psychiatric condition which would prevent performance
  • do not have a history of breaching orders

Supervision of a person placed on a Community Service Order includes:

  • initial induction, including workplace health and safety training
  • assessment of capacity
  • allocation to a project
  • monitoring compliance

Probation and Parole Service

The probation and parole service is responsible for supervising persons who are placed on probation or on parole. Probation usually occurs before and often instead of a prison sentence, while parole is an early release from prison.

The role of this office is to:

  • help courts and parole boards assess offenders for community-based orders
  • enforce orders
  • protect the community by helping offenders complete their orders.

Staff comprise officers in assessment, case management, reporting, compliance, intelligence and surveillance, program delivery and high-risk offender management.

On an average day, there are more than 15,000 offenders supervised by 550 probation and parole staff across the state.

For advice on any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Sally Crosswell

This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

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