Big reforms have come into place in the NSW justice system… and they’re positive changes for criminal offenders.
In September 2018, sweeping amendments to the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 came into force. That’s the legislation that governs sentencing options for criminal offenders.
In short, although some sentencing options have been replaced, the Courts have a wider choice and more discretion to deal with offenders.
The rationale behind the changes stems from research resulting in the recognition that imprisonment (particularly for young offenders, or those guilty of less serious offences) does not benefit either the offender or the community.
There are now three sentencing options, (1) Conditional Release Orders, (2) Community Corrections Orders and (3) Intensive Corrections Orders.
1. Conditional Release Orders:
These have replaced Good Behaviour Bonds with no conviction (formerly under section 10). So, although offenders can’t ask the court for the coveted ‘section 10’, the same outcome is available, being that the offender is discharged without the record of a criminal conviction.
A CRO will come with at least one condition that can last up to 2 years, for example, that the offender cannot associate with certain persons, or must be supervised by Community Corrections.
Like the old section 10s, CROs will only be granted for less serious offences, and if an offender is of good character.
2. Community Corrections Orders
Community Service Orders (formerly under section 8) and Good Behaviour Bonds with conviction (formerly under section 9) have been replaced by Community Corrections Orders.
The orders can last for 3 years and also come with at least one condition. These are imposed for mid-range offences – those that the Court considers the offender should be convicted and punished for, but that are not as serious as to require an Intensive Corrections Order.
3. Intensive Corrections Orders:
These orders replace Home Detention Orders (section 6), current Intensive Corrections Orders (section 7) and Suspended Sentences (section 12). The rationale is that abolishment of shorter sentences will lessen the strain on prisons, making the justice system more efficient.
So, instead of serving a period of imprisonment, offenders who are guilty of at least one offence can remain in the community if they abide by at least one condition, being:
- Home detention,
- Electronic monitoring ,
- Community service,
- Rehabilitation programs,
- Abiding by a curfew,
- Not going to a certain place or area, and/or
- Not associating with particular persons.
Before a Court can make a CRO, the offender must be assessed by a Community Corrections Officer. Assessment reports provide the Court with a deeper insight into the offender’s background, circumstances and help decide which orders will be worthwhile in reducing the risk of reoffending.
CROs are not available for more serious offenses, including murder, firearms offences and some sexual offences.