Forum Sentencing brings together the offender, victims, and any other person affected by a crime. The purpose of bringing the parties together 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.
In the meeting they discuss what happened and how people were affected by the crime to 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/or anything else the group feels is appropriate.
Why should my son/daughter consider applying for Forum Sentencing?
Being part of the Forum Sentencing scheme presents significant benefits including:
- Potentially leading to a better outcome than what magistrates would give normally because the successful completion of the forum sentencing program reflects favourably on your son/daughter, which may mean lighter a sentence
- Enabling your son/daughter to improve their long-term quality of life
- Helping your son/daughter break the cycle of crime which reduces their chances of reoffending.
Your son/daughter must be aware that Forum Sentencing imposes onerous requirements on them. If your son/daughter does not complete the intervention plan the court may issue a warrant for arrest and they may be required to reappear in Court.
Is my son/daughter eligible for Forum Sentencing?
Your son/daughter 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
- Appearing before 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 your son/daughter:
- Is charged with an indictable offence
- Has been charged with certain other serious offences.
What is involved?
There are 7 steps your son/daughter will go through if they become part of the Forum Sentencing Program:
- 1) Court identifies potential participants – after your son/daughter pleads or has been found guilty the court considers their eligibility to participate in a forum. If the Magistrate and your son/daughter agree to be part of the program your son/daughter will meet with a Forum Sentencing Program Administrator for assessment.
- 2) Program Administrator confirms whether the offender is suitable – after the Program Administrator assess your son/daughter they send their recommendations to the Court to be processed.
- 3) Court confirmation of eligibility – the court will confirm whether your son/daughter is 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 victim, your son/daughter, 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 son/daughter will be given a list of specific actions they agree to undertake.
- 6) Back to Court – The plan is sent back to court to be considered. If the Magistrate approves then your son/daughter is to undertake the list of actions prior to or part of the sentence.
- 7) Carrying out the plan – once your son/daughter completes 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 your son, daughter or any other relative are eligible for the Forum Sentencing please call us for further assistance and representation.
WHERE TO NEXT?
If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.