Sentencing offenders

The purpose of sentencing, as well as the factors determining the sentence and sentencing options in NSW are the learning outcomes for this lesson.

Purposes of Sentencing

  • Protect the community from the offender
  • Ensure the offender is adequately punished for the crime
  • Prevent crime by deterring the offender and other persons from committing similar offences
  • Promote rehabilitation of the offender
  • Make the offender accountable for his or her actions
  • Condemn the conduct of the offender
  • Recognise the harm done to the victim of the crime and the community

(Source: The Victims Services and Criminal Law Review, Department of Justice and Attorney General and NSW Sentencing Council produced the Sentencing Information Package (2004) retrieved from on 27 June 2010)

How effective is imprisonment to deter crime?  NSW judge believes jail has not increased public safety June 2010


Sentences are opposed on offenders who have been found guilty or have pleaded guilty.  However sentences vary depending on the seriousness of the offence, the circumstances of the offence and relevant sentencing legislation including maximum penalties.  Sentences are determined by the magistrate or judge.  They include:

  • Non-conviction orders whereby the offender although found guilty may receive an unconditional discharge with charges dismissed and no recording of conviction or conditional discharge without recording conviction on condition that offender enter into a good behaviour bond or intervention program.
  • Conviction order without additional penalty
  • Good behaviour bond that the offender must be of good behaviour during the term of the bond.  Breach of the good behaviour bond may result in re-sentencing for the original offence.
  • Probation: offender is subject to supervision and control of Community Offender Services for a specific period of time.
  • Non-association and place-restriction orders: prohibiting association with a specified person or visiting a specified place for a specified term.
  • Fine: monetary penalty.
  • Community Service Order: the offender is required to perform supervised work for the community for up to 500 hours.
  • Imprisonment: the most serious sentence and only imposed when no other sentence appropriate.  Can take the form of: full-time imprisonment at a correctional centre, periodic detention or home detention. 

An alternative sentencing hearing found effective in preventing reoffending by Indigenous Australians is circle sentencing which involves Indigenous elders in sentencing decisions.  Watch this video to see circle sentencing in action.

Four Corners Inside Circle Sentencing clip


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