Upon either entering a plea of guilty for an offence or a finding of guilt by a court following a hearing or trial, your matter will be set down for sentencing. On the date of sentencing, the Magistrate will need to decide what penalty is appropriate to impose given the seriousness of the offence, your criminal record and personal circumstances generally.
If an offence carries a potential term of imprisonment, the penalties include Good Behaviour Bonds, Fines, Community Service Orders, Suspended Gaol Sentences, Full Time Imprisonment, Home Detention and more recently Intensive Correction Orders. It is also possible that no conviction be recorded and the matter dismissed (pursuant to section 10 Crimes Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999). The imposition of Periodic Detention was abolished in NSW as at 1 October 2010.
The greater an offender’s individual and community responsibilities, it is argued the greater the pressure not to impose a custodial sentence. It is for this reason that alternatives to a full time custodial sentence are available.
Section 10 Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 enables a court, upon a plea or finding of guilt, to order the dismissal of charges without proceeding to record a conviction. The order can be made with or without conditions.
Obtaining a” section 10″ means that there will be no criminal conviction recorded and is the best possible result in sentencing available. If the offence for which you are being sentenced for is serious and/or you have had previous dealings with police then this option may not be available to you.
Good Behaviour Bonds
Sometimes many factors play into the commission of a crime including underlying psychological and/or drug or addiction issues. The court can, in these circumstances (and many others), depending on the situation order that an offender not be gaoled but be subjected to a good behaviour bond. These bonds are for a fixed period of time up to 5 years and often impose a number of conditions and restrictions on the offender’s movements or associations.
For example, someone suffering a substance dependency may be required to attend counselling, rehabilitation or even enter into live in treatment programs.
Depending on the type of offence you are found guilty of or decide to plead to there may be an opportunity to avoid a gaol sentence with what is known as a suspended sentence. The effect of this type of order from the court is that the sentence you are given, say an 18 month gaol sentence is suspended for fixed period on certain conditions.
This act of promising to behave is what is known as entering into a bond with the court on the condition you do not reoffend during this period.
If however, you do reoffend or breached any of the conditions set by the court in this period you will be required to serve the gaol sentence within a NSW correctional facility on a full time basis.
Community Service Order (CSO)
The court may in some circumstances find it appropriate to impose upon an offender a CSO. Often this order involves volunteer work which assists the community in either rectifying the result of some criminal behaviour like the removal of graffiti or assistance with the less fortunate like working in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
Depending on the gaol time the offence could be subject to, the court may impose 100, 200 or 500 hours of community service.
Eligibility criteria apply to the CSO’s and may be appropriate for your condition however you must be aware that as with any other order of the court, breaching it by not completing your hours in the specified time can result in you having to appear in front of the court and explaining yourself. The court considers non compliance with a CSO as serious as it is an alternative to a full time custodial sentence.
Home detention permits an offender to serve part or all of a term of imprisonment in the offender’s home, under strict supervision and subject to conditions. Home Detention offers a more humane form of punishment than a full time custodial sentence and allows for certain offenders who are sentenced to terms of imprisonment of 18 months or less to serve their sentences by way of home detention.
Offenders on the scheme are subjected to intensive surveillance by way of electronic monitoring devices, visits from supervising officers, and drug and alcohol testing.
Breaches of the conditions may result in revocation of the order, requiring the offender to serve the unexpired portion of the fixed or minimum term of the sentence in full-time imprisonment.
Intensive Correction Orders:
Intensive Corrections Orders are available for most offences in circumstances where the Court expects to impose a period of imprisonment but the period is likely to be less than 2 years and the offender is over 18 years of age. Arguably, Intensive Correction Orders operate as a more serious sanction than home detention as they are often quite burdensome with onerous conditions with any breach thereof having dire consequences. The aim of Intensive Correction Orders is to reduce the prison population. The mandatory conditions outlined in the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 are quite burdensome and include but are not limited to:
- General good behaviour and non-reoffending
- Residential requirements
- Travel restrictions
- Submitting to searches
- Submitting to breath testing;
- A minimum of 32 hours community service;
- Obeying all reasonable directions.
Before deciding to enter a plea of guilty for any offence it would be prudent for you to firstly obtain legal advice as to your chances of defending your matter. In the event that you decide to plead guilty to the offence for which you have been charged or if a court has found you guilty of a particular offence, please contact our office on (02) 8251 0059 so that we can assist you in ensuring that a fair penalty is imposed upon you by the Court.