Sentencing Dispositions that involve community-based intervention in Western Australia
When a person is convicted of a criminal offence in Western Australia – either by pleading guilty, or with a court finding of guilty, an offender will be sentenced.
That is, they will be ‘punished’ in accordance with sentencing principles in the Sentencing Act 1995 and under our common law sentencing principles in respect of the specific offence.
The court takes into account a range of factors when sentencing. In WA, as in most other states, a custodial sentence (otherwise known as time in prison) is a sentence of last resort, and it is ordinarily reserved for the most serious criminal offences.
The court has a range of sentencing options available to it when sentencing an offender. Among the sentencing options is a court order that involves intervention by Community Corrections/Justice Services.
Penalties that involve community-based intervention will be imposed if the court determines that the offender has good prospects for rehabilitation and would benefit from the program and supervision requirements that are imposed as part of the court order.
Examples of community-based intervention
There are some general compulsory requirements involved under an order by the court that involves community-based intervention.
These may include:
- Regular reporting to a specified community corrections officer;
- Notifying community corrections of a change of address or other contact information and;
- A requirement to request permission to leave Western Australia.
Additional requirements may include participation and attendance in a rehabilitation program, to have regular appointments with a psychiatrist, or to undertake a set number of hours of volunteer work in the community.
The order may also involve a direction from the community corrections officer to the offender to abstain from alcohol or drug use. This situation is often accompanied by regular drug and alcohol testing of the offender.
Intensive Supervision Orders and Community Based Orders
An Intensive Supervision Order (or an ISO) and a Community Based Order (CBO) are two separate sentencing dispositions, but both involve stringent community-based intervention. If an offender fails to comply with the conditions set by a community corrections officer under an ISO or the CBO, then the offender will be in breach of the order. In these circumstances the offender is brought back to the court for resentencing in respect of the offence/s for which the ISO or the CBO was imposed.
If an offence is committed during the course of an ISO or an CBO, that will also constitute a breach of the order by the court and the same process will apply – that is the offender will be required to attend court for resentencing. In these circumstances the courts can and often do impose a penalty which is more serious and higher up the sentencing ladder. That may include a Conditional Suspended Imprisonment Order or a term of immediate imprisonment.
The Benefits of Sentencing Dispositions which involve community-based intervention
When they are managed well, sentences involving community-based intervention do offer offenders a good chance of rehabilitation because they provide an offender access to guidance, counselling and rehabilitation.
Immediate imprisonment cannot offer the same opportunities. And, once an offender spends significant time in prison they can potentially lose contact with family and friends and other social support on the outside. When an offender is released from prison, they may also feel marginalised, or stigmatised, and that can make it more difficult for them to get their life back on track.
Bodies of research have concluded that spending time in prison with other offenders as day-to-day associates tends to create high levels of re-offending, whereas, recidivism rates are lower when an offender has completed a community-based sentence.
There is a growing body of research, particularly concerning young offenders, (currently in Australia children as young as 10 years of age can be held criminally responsible) that suggest that court oders that involve community-based intervention are more successful in enabling young people to turn their lives around, away from a path of crime.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence
If you have been charged by police it is important to seek advice from a professional, specialist criminal lawyer who can help you to understand the charges, guide you through the court process, and inform you about the potential sentence you face if you are found guilty.
Contact the Andrew Williams Criminal Law Offices without delay on (08) 9278 2575.
PLEASE NOTE: The material in this blog post is for informational use only and should not be construed as legal advice. For answers to your questions regarding this or other topics, please contact a professional legal representative.