Suspended Sentences (SA)
In South Australia, when a person is sentenced to a term of imprisonment, that term may be wholly or partially suspended under section 96 of the Sentencing Act 2017. When a term of imprisonment is suspended, the offender is allowed to remain living in the community subject to conditions and is not required to serve the term of imprisonment unless the conditions are breached. This page deals with suspended sentences in South Australia.
Why is a sentence suspended?
A court may suspend a term of imprisonment because under the circumstances the offender should not be imprisoned immediately. This may be because of their health, age, carer’s responsibilities or prior good character.
Partly suspended sentences
Under section 96(4) of the Sentencing Act 2017, when a court sentences a person to more than three months but less than 12 months imprisonment it may:
- Direct the offender to serve a specified period of at least a month is prison; and
- Suspend the remainder of the sentence upon the offender entering into a bond.
When a person is given a suspended sentence in South Australia, they must undertake to be of good behaviour for the operational period of the sentence. They are also prohibited from possessing a firearm or any part of a firearm or ammunition during this period and must submit to gunshot residue testing as required.
The court may also impose any additional conditions that it considers appropriate. These include:
- Living at a particular address
- Being supervised by Community Corrections
- Abstaining from drugs or alcohol
- Undertaking community service work
- Undergoing medical treatment
- Paying a sum of money if the conditions are breached
When sentence of imprisonment cannot be suspended
There is a range of situations where South Australian courts cannot suspend a term of imprisonment. These are where a person is being sentenced as an adult for:
- a serious organized crime offence such as trafficking or manufacturing controlled drugs;
- a specified offence against police such as causing serious harm to a police officer;
- a serious sexual offence such as rape or indecent assault;
- a designated offence such as stalking, kidnapping or robbery.
However, a court may impose a term of imprisonment that is partly suspended for a prescribed designated offence (manslaughter or causing serious harm). A court cannot suspend more than four fifths of the sentence of imprisonment imposed for these offences.
A court cannot impose a suspended sentence in a situation where the sentence is to be served cumulatively or concurrently with another sentence of imprisonment except where the sentences are for periods of between three months and one year.
Under section 51 of the Sentencing Act 2017, a court may not suspend a sentence that it imposes on a serious firearms offender for a serious firearms offence that carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment unless the offender’s personal circumstances are so exceptional as to outweigh paramount consideration of protecting the safety of the community and personal and general deterrence AND it is appropriate to suspend the sentence.
Breach of suspended sentence
Under section 114 of the Sentencing Act 2017, if a court finds that a person has breached the conditions of a suspended sentence in South Australia, it must restore the suspended period of imprisonment. However, if the breach was trivial or there are proper grounds on which the breach should be excused, the court may refrain from restoring the suspended term of imprisonment and:
- extend the term of the bond
- vary or revoke any condition of the bond
- if the bond has expired, require the person to enter into a further bond for up to 12 months.
If a court restores a suspended term of imprisonment, it may also make an order:
- reducing the term of the sentence
- setting a non-parole period
- that the sentence be cumulative on another sentence to be served by the person
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