Community Based Sentencing in Tasmania
Community based sentencing in Tasmania permits a court to release an offender into the community under strict terms and conditions rather than apply penalties such as a prison sentence or a fine. Community based sentencing options are particularly effective for less serious crimes, for young offenders and for some first offenders. Like other sentencing options in Tasmania, community based sentences are made under the Sentencing Act 1997.
Why do we have community based sentences?
Community based sentencing has the potential to benefit not only offenders but also the community. They direct offenders to undertake programs and activities like community service, employment, training courses and behaviour changing programs. These sentences are also beneficial as they keep offenders employed, housed and undergoing rehabilitative options, and are likely to have considerable longer term benefits for the individual, their family and the community.
Community Service Orders
Only some offenders are eligible for a community based sentence. Very serious offences cannot be dealt with this way.
A community based sentencing order in Tasmania may require a defendant do unpaid work (community service) of up to 240 hours. This option is only possible if work is available in their area and the defendant is considered to be a suitable person for an order.
The conditions with which a defendant must comply while on an order are that:
- they must not commit any offences that carry a possible prison sentence
- they must report to Community Corrections
- they must satisfactorily perform the community service work and comply with the reasonable directions of Community Corrections
- they must notify Community Corrections of any change of address or employment within 2 days
- they must not leave Tasmania without permission
- they must attend as directed any educational and other programs.
If the defendant does not comply with all of the conditions of the order, or if they have acted aggressively towards a probation officer or supervisor, they can be penalised by a fine of up to 10 penalty units or imprisonment for up to three months. In addition, the community service order might be increased or they may be re-sentenced for the original offence.
Another option in community based sentencing in Tasmania is the probation order. A probation order places the defendant under the supervision of a probation officer for up to three years. The probation officer will maintain contact to make sure that the person’s living and work arrangements and other aspects of their life are satisfactory.
The conditions of a probation order are similar to those for a community service order. In addition, the person must, if directed to do so by the court or their probation officer:
- attend educational and/or other programs
- undergo assessment and treatment for alcohol or drug dependency
- submit to testing for alcohol or drug use
- submit to medical, psychological or psychiatric assessment or treatment.
Breaches of a probation order are dealt with in a similar way to those for breaches of a community service order.
Court ordered adjournments with conditions
A court can order the adjournment of a matter for up to five years with conditions. The conditions for adjournment are that the person must:
- come to court at any time during the adjournment they are called on to do so
- be of good behaviour during the period of the adjournment
- comply with any other conditions that are imposed on them by the court.
If the defendant doesn’t comply with all of the conditions of the adjournment, they will be called up before the court and the original charge will be reconsidered. The prosecution will have to prove both the facts of the original offence, as well as proving the circumstances of the breach.
After hearing evidence about the breach and any other evidence that the defendant may call, the magistrate can decide either to take no action, or to revoke the adjournment and impose a sentence for the original offence.
Options for community based sentencing in Tasmania
Other options for community-based sentencing in Tasmania include:
- a rehabilitation treatment order, such as a drug treatment order
- a court mandated drug diversion program
- a partial or fully suspended sentence
- court ordered parole.
When a sentence of imprisonment is imposed, all or part of it may be suspended with conditions. If the conditions of a suspended sentence are breached, the court will usually order that the sentence take effect, but they may instead impose a lesser jail sentence or any other type of sentence that could have been imposed for the original offence.
Offenders whose sentence includes a minimum non-parole period may apply to be paroled at the end of the non-parole period. If they are granted parole, they are supervised by a Probation Officer during their parole. As well as monitoring the person’s behaviour, the Probation Officer provides assistance for the transition from prison to the community.
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