Recent changes to NSW sentencing laws will affect the way that more severe sentencing options are used by courts.
Suspended sentences, previously the last chance offered to a person who might otherwise be sent to gaol, have been abolished. Instead, the Intensive Corrections Order (“ICO”) will be more commonly used by courts for offences at the higher range of seriousness.
ICOs allow courts to impose very strict controls upon a person. ICOs act to protect the community and force offenders to take steps toward rehabilitation, while also allowing the person to retain their liberty and to continue their employment.
ICO conditions can include curfews, mandatory supervision by Community Corrections (including participation in drug and alcohol therapy), home detention, electronic monitoring (eg. an ankle bracelet) and community service.
In the past, community service was a mandatory element of an ICO. Offenders who were unable to perform community service – perhaps due to employment or health reasons – would be deemed ineligible for an ICO. This would limit the options to a suspended sentence or full time gaol. Now, mandatory community service is no longer required for an ICO. This will make the sentencing option available to a broader range of offenders.
The new sentencing laws apply to all types of matters in the criminal jurisdiction, including traffic offences. They will require a period of adjustment for both courts and the community. Because of the practical effects, it is vital that up-to-date and accurate advice is obtained by everyone who comes before a court.