Sentencing Options in Criminal Law Matters

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This article does not constitute legal advice. It is general in nature and is not an appropriate substitute for considered legal advice that is specific to your circumstances and the facts in your matter. Please contact us to obtain considered and specific legal advice.

What is Sentencing?

‘Sentencing’ is the exercise in which the Court determines what happens after an offence has been ‘proven’.

An offence is considered proven in 3 circumstances:

  1. If you plead guilty;
  2. If you are found guilty following a hearing; or
  3. If you are convicted in your absence.

Sentencing will normally take place in a sentencing hearing.

What is a Conviction?

A ‘conviction’ is the formal recording of the offence proven against you.

It will appear on your criminal record and there may be occasions where you are required to disclose it.


What are the different Sentencing Options (from least to most serious)?

1.   Non Conviction Dismissal (s10(1)a)

This is the least serious sentencing option.

This means that the Court is declining to impose any penalty and declining to impose a conviction.

Once you leave Court the matter is over forever.

2.   Conviction Only s10A

This means that the Court is declining to impose any penalty other than to record the conviction.

3.   Conditional Release Order Without Conviction (CRO)

This is a bond. A bond is essentially a promise to the Court to refrain from engaging in certain behaviours.

This means that if you comply with conditions of the bond, the Court will not impose any further penalty except for the recording of a conviction.

The standard condition of all orders is that an offender must not commit any offence and that the offender must appear in Court if called upon to do so.

Additional conditions can also be imposed. Common additional conditions include: alcohol/drug restrictions, rehabilitation activities, engagement with a psychiatrist/psychologist, participation in certain courses, curfew, community service orders, non-association orders, and restriction on places you are able to go.

If you breach any condition of the bond, the Court is at liberty to re-sentence you.

The Court can also make ‘supervision orders’. This means that in compliance with the orders you would be supervised by Community Corrections NSW. Generally you will need to follow any reasonable direction they give you, which may be to attend meetings or participate in any course. There is an assumption in favour of a supervision order in matters involving domestic violence.

4.    Conditional Release Order With Conviction (CRO)

 This is a bond. A bond is essentially a promise to the Court to refrain from engaging in certain behaviours.

This means that if you comply with conditions of the bond, the Court will not impose further penalty other than the conviction.

The standard condition of all orders is that an offender must not commit any offence and that the offender must appear in Court if called upon to do so.

Additional conditions can also be imposed. Common additional conditions include: alcohol/drug restrictions, rehabilitation activities, engagement with a psychiatrist/psychologist, participation in certain courses, curfew, community service orders, non-association orders, and restriction on places you are able to go.

If you breach any condition of the bond, the Court is at liberty to re-sentence you.

The Court can also make ‘supervision orders’. This means that in compliance with the orders you would be supervised by Community Corrections NSW. Generally you will need to follow any reasonable direction they give you, which may be to attend meetings or participate in any course.  There is an assumption in favour of a supervision order in matters involving domestic violence.

5.    Community Corrections Order (CCO)

A CCO is used when the offence is too serious to be dealt with by way of a fine or CRO.

These bonds are always accompanied by a conviction and generally impose more conditions than a CRO. They are also much more likely to be supervised, reflecting the more serious nature in which the Court views the offending.

A key difference is that the Court can impose this bond along with other penalties, such a fine.

 The standard condition of all orders is that an offender must not commit any offence and that the offender must appear in Court if called upon to do so.

Additional conditions can also be imposed. Common additional conditions include: alcohol/drug restrictions, rehabilitation activities, engagement with a psychiatrist/psychologist, participation in certain courses, curfew, community service orders, non-association orders, and restriction on places you are able to go.

The maximum term of a CCO is 3 years.

6.    Intensive Correction Order (ICO)

 This is the most serious penalty a Court can impose, other than a full time custodial sentence.

 An ICO is a type of imprisonment or custodial sentence, however it is served in the community rather than in Jail.

The Court can add conditions to an ICO such as home detention, electronic monitoring, curfews, community service work, alcohol and drug restrictions, place restrictions, association orders, and any other order that the Court thinks is appropriate.

An ICO is monitored and supervised by Probation and Parole NSW and any breaches of the orders are referred to the NSW State Parole Authority (SPA) and not the Courts.

If there is a serious breach, the State Parole Authority can determine that the offender is required to then serve the remainder of their sentence in custody without the matter going back to Court.

An ICO is the most serious of Court orders that an offender can serve in the community and are not available for a number of offences involving Violence, breaches of public safety and child related matters.

7.    Full Time Custody/Imprisonment

 This means that you will serve your sentence in Jail.

 Prior to imposing a full time custodial sentence, the Court is required to consider if there are any other reasonably available alternatives. Accordingly, the Courts will only impose full time imprisonment as a sentence of last resort.