Parole in New South Wales does not mean that an offender is simply freed from prison. It is a release from prison to serve part of their sentence in the community. It is a more effective way of protecting the community than it would be to simply release an offender at the end of their sentence without assistance and supervision. Release on parole is always conditional and the parolees must follow the conditions of their release. If they are not followed then parole may be revoked and the offender returned to custody. The decision to release an offender on parole involves a thorough review of all of the information available and the assessment of any risk. The law governing parole is contained in the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999.
The New South Wales State Parole Authority is an independent statutory authority governed primarily by the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 and the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Regulation 2014. It makes decisions relating to offenders serving a prison sentence regarding;
- Whether an offender is released on parole if their sentence includes a non-parole period.
- Setting the conditions of an offenders release on parole.
- Whether and how a parole order should be revoked.
- Whether and how an Intensive Correction Order, Periodic Detention Order or Home Detention Order is revoked, substituted or reinstated.
In New South Wales if a person is sentenced to a prison term of 6 months or less then all of that sentence must be served in custody without any parole. If a person is sentenced to a prison term that is greater than 6 months but less than 3 years then the court must set a non-parole period. The non-parole period is the time during which the offender cannot be released from prison on parole. At the end of that time the offender is automatically released on parole under the conditions that were set by the court. If the court sets a sentence of 3 years or more it may also specify a non-parole period.
However, it is the responsibility of the New South Wales State Parole Authority (SPA) to decide whether or not the offender will be released at the end of the non-parole period and if so, under what conditions they will be released. The SPA is not to release an offender unless it is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the release is in the public interest. In deciding this they can consider a number of factors including the past behaviour of the offender, the threat if any that the offender poses to the community, and any reports and assessments provided by the probation and parole service.
The offender must show the Authority that they are rehabilitated. To show this they must not commit any criminal offences in custody or any prison discipline offences. They may also have to progress through the prison classification system and obtain minimum security classification with weekend leave. This is subject to good behaviour and, depending on the type of offence, the completion of rehabilitation programs.
While on parole an offender will be subject to regular visits and checks. They are also expected not to commit further offences. The SPA will also insist that the offender addresses their offending behaviour by completing courses they consider necessary to help prevent re-offending; such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation, anger management and/or violence prevention programs and sex offender programs.
The SPA can revoke parole at any time without any notice necessarily being given to the offender. A warrant is issued and when the offender is arrested the revocation will be listed for hearing about 4 to 6 weeks later. The offender will appear at the hearing and can be legally represented. A court cannot grant bail in the meantime.
If the offender is charged with further offences while on parole the Authority can revoke without waiting to see if the person is found guilty. They will consider the police brief of evidence when making this decision. If the person is later found not guilty the Authority may rescind the revocation but will not always do so. If there are some mitigating or compassionate circumstances surrounding the breach, the Authority may rescind it.
If the revocation is due to fresh charges, the Authority will not reconsider the revocation until the fresh charges are finalised. If a revocation of parole is not rescinded, the offender will have to serve the balance of the sentence in custody. If the balance of the sentence is more than 12 months, the offender will be eligible for parole again after they have served 12 months.