The law that governs sentencing in Western Australia is the Sentencing Act 1995. Community based corrections orders exist in each state and territory in Australia. They are non-custodial orders. Not all offences are so serious that a prison sentence is the best way to punish an offender and protect the community. These community based corrections orders in Western Australia give the court options for managing offenders while they continue to remain in the community.
Community based orders also provide an offender with the opportunity to undergo treatment or to take part in vocational, educational or personal development programs. They may also have to perform community service work. Supervising the order is the responsibility of Department of Corrective Services. The people who manage the orders are known as community corrections officers and their job is to make sure that the offender meets all the conditions the court has imposed in the order. If the order includes supervision, then the offender must also report to these officers during the period of the order.
While the court can make an order without first getting a pre-sentence report, it is most likely that the court would want one to make sure that the order made properly reflects the needs of the offender. Therefore the matter may have to be adjourned for a report to be prepared. The length of the order is determined by the court. It must be set for at least 6 months and cannot be longer than 2 years.
When a community based order is issued the offender must:
- Report within 72 hours of the sentence being handed down to their community corrections officer.
- Advise their community corrections officer if they change their address or their employment.
- Not leave the State without the permission of the Community Corrections office.
- Comply with directions from the Community Corrections office.
- Comply with all of the terms of the court order.
There are 3 requirements of a community based order in Western Australia, and the court must include at least one of them but can include as many as it chooses.
The 3 requirements are:
- Supervision of an offender so that their progress can be monitored and regular counselling given. The community corrections officer will decide how often the offender must report. This may be weekly or more frequently.
- A program designed to help offenders curb their criminal behaviour using treatment and assessment. Treatment may be for any drug or alcohol abuse. There may also be a requirement to attend an educational, training, vocational or personal development program. The court can also direct that the offender lives at a specific location so they can attend the relevant program.
- Community service may be part of the community based order. The number of hours to be worked under the order will be between 40 and 120 hours. In each 7 day period at least 12 hours must be worked. Community service may involve working with an organisation or the offender may have to join a group who are allocated work on outdoor community projects.
In Western Australia the court also has the power to make a spent conviction order at the time that they make the community based order. This means that once the period of the community based corrections order has been successfully completed, the offender does not have to reveal the details of the conviction to anyone, except in exceptional circumstances.
If the order is finished with no breaches committed, the sentence is finalised. If the court decided to make a spent conviction order at the time the sentence was imposed, then no conviction will be recorded against the offender’s name once the sentence is successfully completed and it will not appear on their criminal record. If a spent conviction order was not made, the offender will have a criminal record.
If the offender breaches the order by not complying with the terms of the order or by committing another offence while the order is current, the community corrections officer will prepare a breach report for the court. The case will then come before the court again. The offender may be re-sentenced for the original offences and may not receive the benefit of another community based option. Any new offences will also be dealt with and the offender will also be sentenced for those.