Good Behaviour Bonds (Tas)
In Tasmania, a court may release a person who has been found guilty of a criminal offence on an undertaking. Undertakings are known as good behaviour bonds in many other states. This article explains how undertakings work in Tasmania.
What is an undertaking?
Under section 7(f) of the Sentencing Act 1997, a court that finds an offender guilty of an offence in Tasmania can adjourn the proceeding for a period of up to 60 months and release the offender upon them giving an undertaking. This means that the person must agree not to commit an offence for a set period of time and if they display good behaviour during this period, they will face no further punishment.
Undertaking vs bail
An undertaking is not the same as bail, which is an agreement made by an accused to live in the community subject to conditions prior to their matter being heard by a court.
An undertaking is made after a court has found a person guilty. It is an opportunity for an offender to demonstrate good behaviour, seek treatment or make restitution. The opportunity to be released on an undertaking allows offenders to avoid a more serious penalty, such as a custodial sentence.
An undertaking is subject to the offender agreeing to appear by order of the court on notice from a proper court officer. An order or notice must be served on the offender at least four days before the scheduled attendance. The offender must also show good behaviour during the period and observe any other conditions the court imposes. The type of conditions that might be attached to an undertaking in Tasmania include:
- Supervision by a community corrections officer;
- Medical, psychiatric or psychological treatment;
- A requirement to live at a specific address or to avoid a specific address or geographical area;
- Performance of community service work;
- Abstaining from alcohol or drugs;
- Payment of compensation to victims of the crime; or
- Participation in an intervention program.
The offender often must return to court during their bond period to answer questions about their behaviour. If the court finds that an offender has not complied with the order, it can resentence the offender for the original offence.
When will a Good Behaviour Bond be made?
The courts will only make good behaviour bonds under certain circumstances. A court might agree to an undertaking instead of a term of imprisonment because the offence is a less serious or historical crime. Other factors that might lead to a good behaviour bond include that the offender pled guilty (saving the cost of a trial), and the offender displays remorse for their actions. The nature of the crime will dictate whether these mitigating factors play a role in sentencing. For instance, an offender that uses their status in the community and the victim’s shame to conceal a sexual offence for years is less likely to receive a good behaviour bond, even if the offence is historical.
Breach of Good Behaviour Bond
An authorised person can report a breach of an undertaking to the court. The offender is then served with a notice to appear at a hearing on the matter. The court typically issues an arrest warrant if the offender fails to attend the hearing. The court will interview witnesses and the offender to determine whether there was a breach and if there is any reasonable excuse. If the court is convinced that there was a breach of the undertaking without reasonable excuse, it may cancel the good behaviour bond. The court can also impose a fine of an appropriate amount.
Outcome Of Good Behaviour Bonds
The court must discharge the offender without further hearing if it is satisfied that the offender observed the terms of their undertaking. On the other hand, if the court is dissatisfied with the offender’s behaviour, the court can cancel the good behaviour bond and deal with the offender as if they were just found guilty of the crime.
In the State of Tasmania v Shane Vivian Smith , an offender stole $4,000 from a business. Eight years later, he was charged with burglary when DNA evidence linked him to the crime. While he committed several dishonest acts at the time of this robbery, he had since rehabilitated, seeking work and volunteering his time in the community. When he was arrested, he was remorseful, cooperated with the police, and pled guilty. When assessing the appropriate sentence, the court considered the following factors:
- The crime was historical as it happened eight years ago;
- The offender expressed remorse and pled guilty;
- There had been a significant change in the defendant’s behaviour over a significant period of time; and
- He had made contributions to the community during that time.
Given these factors, the court ordered a twelve-month suspended sentence and a two-year good behaviour bond.
The criminal law team at Go To Court can answer any questions you have about good behaviour bonds in Tasmania. Please contact our offices for any assistance with this matter or other legal advice or representation.