February 2019 | Scott Freidman

Over the years we have become accustomed to hearing media references to court sentences meted out for criminal offences. Terminology such as “suspended sentences”, “good behaviour bonds” and “home detention” are often not unfamiliar to us. Our experience with these sentences may have been more direct, particularly for young adults whose social activities place them at higher risk of running up against law enforcement authorities.

In more recent times there has been a movement within law reform agencies towards more tailored and targeted community-based sentences. The rationale is that supervised, conditional community-based sentences are more likely to hold offenders to account and reduce the risk they will reoffend than unsupervised, unconditional sentences such as short terms of imprisonment. An example is where a young adult with no serious prior convictions commits an offence in which mental health issues or substance dependency have been important underlying factors.

In the spirit of this changing rationale, from 24 September 2018 a suite of new sentencing options became available to New South Wales courts. These allow the courts to closely consider an offender’s subjective circumstances, whilst also weighing up considerations of community safety.

With time, we’re likely to hear more about these new options as the orders become established within sentencing procedures. However, it should be noted that these new orders will not apply to young people coming before the Children’s Court or being managed under the Youth Offenders Act.

A brief outline of the new orders – from least severe to most severe – is set out below.

Conditional Release Orders (CROs)

  • CROs replace the old “non-conviction bonds” and are the least severe of the three new orders
  • they last for up to 2 years and are appropriate for first time and less serious offences
  • they may or may not involve a conviction (appearing on your criminal record) as well as other conditions such as supervision by a corrections officer, drug and alcohol abstention, treatment or rehabilitation programs as well as movement and association restrictions
  • CROs do not affect the old “section 10” orders for dismissal of charges and intervention programs following a “guilty” result

Community Correction Orders (CCOs)

  • CCOs are more severe than CROs
  • they replace the old “community service orders” and “good behaviour bonds”
  • they can be made for up to 3 years and target offences that are too serious for a fine or lower level penalty and not serious enough for imprisonment
  • they will involve a conviction and may attract additional conditions to those listed above for the CRO such as a curfew or community service work

Intensive Correction Orders (ICOs)

  • these new ICOs replace the old ICOs that included orders for “home detention” and “suspended sentences”
  • they are the most serious of the three orders and can be applied as a custodial sentence to be served in the community (rather than full-time custody) for up to 2 years for a single offence (or up to 3 years if more than 1 offence)
  • they are not available for offenders under the age of 18
  • a supervision condition will be standard to this order and additional orders for home detention and electronic monitoring may also be involved

If you or a dependant fall into difficulties with the police or law enforcement authorities, please call Harris Freidman on (02) 9231 2466 to speak to one of our experienced lawyers.