Significant Changes Are Proposed to Criminal Law Sentencing & Offender Supervision

Written on the 22 May 2017 by Matthew Carney

On 9 May 2017, the NSW Governments announced a series of significant justice reforms that aim to deliver justice more quickly to communities and victims, strengthen sentencing options and ensure offenders are rigorously supervised when serving community orders.


Sentencing Reform


Alternative Sentencing Criminal Law 2017It has been proposed that:

  1. Suspended sentences be abolished;
  2. Intensive Correction Order (ICO) be strengthened, with offenders subject to supervision by Community Corrections Officers and conditions such as home detention, electronic monitoring, curfews and community service work.
  3. Community Correction Orders will replace Community Service Orders and good behaviour bonds;
  4. Conditional Release Orders will replace s.10 bonds without convictions;
  5. More than 200 extra Community Corrections Officers will provide extra supervision to thousands of offenders, who were previously unsupervised in the community.

The following details were released by the Department of Justice regarding the proposed amendments:

Intensive Correction Order

Supervision will be mandatory and all offenders serving Intensive Correction Orders (ICOs) will be subject to conditions such as home detention, electronic monitoring, curfews, community service work, alcohol/drug bans, place restrictions, or non-association requirements.

Offenders will be required to participate in programs that target the causes of their behaviour, such as alcohol or drug misuse, or mental health issues. The ICO will be the most serious sentence that an offender can serve in the community. All offenders on ICOs will be subject to Corrective Services NSW supervision.

If offenders breach their order, Community Corrections Officers will have authority to impose fast and more certain penalties. For more serious breaches, offenders will be brought before the State Parole Authority (SPA). The SPA will have the power to send the offenders to prison to serve the remainder of their sentence in custody.

Community safety will be the Court's paramount consideration when deciding whether an offender should serve up to two years under an ICO or in prison.

ICOs will not be available for offenders who have been convicted of murder, manslaughter, sexual assault, any sexual offence against a child, discharge of a firearm, terrorism offences, organised crime, breaches of serious crime prevention orders, or breaches of public safety orders. A domestic violence offender will only be able to be sentenced to an ICO if the court is satisfied that the victims can be adequately protected. For example, a domestic violence offender will not be eligible for an ICO with a home detention condition if they will be residing with the victim.

Community Correction Order

Courts will be able to use the Community Correction Order (CCO) to punish offenders for crimes that do not warrant imprisonment or an ICO, but are too serious to be dealt with by a fine or lower level penalty.

Know Your Rights in NSW 2016

CCOs replace community service orders and good behaviour bonds.

The court will be able to select from the range of conditions, such as supervision by Community Corrections Officers, community service work and curfews. CCOs will be able to be imposed for a period of up to three years.

Conditional Release Order

CROs will replace non-conviction bonds.

Courts will be able to use the Conditional Release Order (CRO) to deal with first time and less serious offences where the offender is unlikely to present a risk to the community.

Offenders who are sentenced for offences such as driving while disqualified, first time drink driving or low level drug possession, may receive a CRO.

The benefit of CROs is that the Court will be able to impose conditions such as supervision, non-association requirements and place restrictions where appropriate. CROs will be able to be imposed for a period of up to two years.

Similar to the intent of non-conviction bonds, the CRO acts as a warning and diverts these less serious offenders out of the criminal justice system, freeing up resources to deal with the offenders who cause the greatest concern to the community. If an offender commits any further offences while on a CRO, subsequent penalties will be more severe.


Early Guilty Plea Reform


It has been proposed that:

  1. There be early disclosure of evidence by Police.
  2. Senior prosecutors will review evidence and confirm the charges that will proceed as early as possible.
  3. There be mandatory criminal case conferencing between senior prosecutors and the defence.
  4. Flexible Local Court case management.
  5. Statutory sentence discounts for guilty pleas.

The following details were released by the Department of Justice regarding the proposed amendments:

Statutory sentence discounts

Common law currently provides for a sentence discount of up to 25 per cent for an early guilty plea, which is applied flexibly by the courts.

The reform will prescribe the following sentence discounts for indictable offences based on the timing of the plea, providing a clear incentive to plead guilty early.

  • 25 per cent discount for guilty pleas entered in the Local Court
  • 10 per cent discount for guilty pleas entered in the District / Supreme court but before trial
  • 5 per cent discount for guilty pleas entered on the day of trial or after the trial commences

Judges will have the discretion to provide no sentencing discount (or a lesser discount) in cases of extreme culpability.

Early disclosure of evidence

Currently, all briefs of evidence provided by the NSW Police Force to the prosecution and defence are required to be in a form which is admissible in court.

Under the reform, the NSW Police Force will be required to provide a simplified form of brief, which must contain material that forms the basis of the prosecution case, is relevant to the accused, and affects the strength of the prosecution case.

However, not all the evidence will be required to be in admissible form when the brief is provided by Police.

Charge certification

Senior prosecutors have the experience and authority to determine the most appropriate charge. However, in most cases, they are not currently engaged until late in the criminal process, often after a trial date is set. As a result, charges can be withdrawn or amended late in the process.

Under the reform, a senior prosecutor will review the brief of evidence as soon as it is served, and confirm ("certify") the charges that will proceed.

Mandatory criminal case conferencing

Currently, there is no formal requirement for prosecution and defence lawyers to discuss a case before it progresses to trial.

Under the reform, senior lawyers for the prosecution and defence will be engaged earlier, and will be required to participate in a case conference.

Local Court case management

Currently, Local Court magistrates are responsible for deciding whether matters should be committed for trial, based on the evidence available to support the charge.

Under the reform, the substantive decision by the magistrate to commit a case for trial will be removed. Instead, senior prosecutors will perform the function of screening out cases through charge certification.

It is suggested that cases will be managed better and more consistently because senior legal representatives from the prosecution and defence will be responsible for matters from start to finish.


Further amendments have also been prosed for Parole, high risk offender management and additional funding for correction facilities.

These changes will have significant impacts if implemented and it is important that if you have a criminal law matter that your lawyer is up to date with any legislative changes.


Criminal Law Articles


If you have any further questions in relation to sentencing or you've been charged with a criminal offence, please call Matthew Carney on 1800 994 279 or email him. A member of our Criminal Team will endeavour to respond to your enquiry within 24 hours.

- Matthew Carney
   Criminal Lawyer

Matthew Carney - Drink Driving Lawyer in NSW

Why choose our Criminal Law Team?


Author: Matthew Carney
About: Matthew Carney is the head of the Family & De Facto Law Team and our Criminal Law Team. Matthew provides practical and effective family law advice to clients in all matters including property settlements, parenting matters, applications for divorce, annulment applications, child support, contravention, recovery and relocation proceedings. Matthew assists his clients to resolve matters in their best interests at the earliest possible opportunity. Matthew explains the law in an individual way tailored to each clients needs while demonstrating genuine care and compassion in this difficult time.
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