On this page we look at what penalties a court can impose when sentencing an offender.
Please note that reforms to the structure and operation of the sentencing options available to courts in NSW are anticipated to commence by early October 2018. Further details of the reforms may be viewed on the Department of Justice's webpage.
If the court finds an offender guilty, but there are extenuating circumstances or the offence was trivial, the court can make a 'section 10 order' which means that the offender will not receive a conviction. The court can either dismiss the charges, or discharge the offender on the condition that they enter into a good behaviour bond or an agreement to participate in an intervention program.
If an offender breaches the condition to be of good behaviour he or she can be convicted and sentenced for the original offence.
If an offence is not trivial enough to be dismissed using a section 10 order, but there are other good reasons for not imposing a penalty, the court can convict an offender without imposing any penalty. This means the offender will get a criminal record but will not be sentenced.
Instead of sentencing an offender to imprisonment, the court can order that the offender undertake community service work for a specified number of hours. The maximum number of community service hours a court may order for one offence is 500.
A section 9 bond can be imposed where a penalty of imprisonment is available. Instead of imposing a sentence of imprisonment, the court can order that the offender enter into a good behaviour bond for up to 5 years.
Conditions of a bond will always require an offender to be of good behaviour and to report to the court if required. Other conditions might include:
If the offender fails to enter into the good behaviour bond, or if the conditions of the bond are breached, the court can sentence the offender again for the original offence.
The court that finds an offender guilty can decide to adjourn a case for up to 12 months before it decides how to sentence the offender. During the 12 months, the offender would be released on bail. The purpose of deferring a sentence is usually so that an offender can be assessed for rehabilitation and take part in a rehabilitation or intervention program, but the court can defer sentencing for any purpose it considers appropriate. The court will take the offenders progress during the adjournment into account when it sentences the offender.
In addition to another penalty, the court can order offenders who commit a crime that is punishable by 6 months imprisonment or more not to associate with certain people or go to certain places for up to 12 months.
A number of sentencing options above require the offender to agree to participate in an 'intervention program'.
There are 3 intervention programs in NSW. They are:
If a court imposes a sentence of imprisonment of less than 2 years, the court can order the offender to enter into a good behaviour bond for up to 2 years. The sentence of imprisonment will only need to be served if the good behaviour bond is breached. If the offender breaches the bond, they will be required to serve the sentence of imprisonment, unless the breach was trivial or there were good reasons for it.
The court can order the offender to pay a fine, which will be expressed as a number of 'penalty units'. A penalty unit is currently equal to $110. An offender might be fined as well as receiving another type of sentence.
Imprisonment is the sentence of last resort. A court should only sentence an offender to imprisonment if it is satisfied that none of the above penalties are appropriate. A sentence of imprisonment may be served in several ways:
This type of penalty is not mentioned in legislation, but it is available to courts in NSW. It is a way of the court saying that the offender is convicted, but no sentence is imposed. The court orders the defendant to 'remain in court until the next adjournment' - that is, until the next break in the sittings of the court that day, which may mean the offender is only detained for a few minutes. This order is reserved for the least serious of offences.