Suspended sentences were formerly a part of the sentencing regime in NSW. However, in 2018, suspended sentences were replaced by a new regime of community-based orders by the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Amendment (Sentencing Options) Act 2017. These reforms were introduced to prevent and reduce reoffending through more specifically targeted community-based orders. The new regime commenced on 24 September 2018.


What is a suspended sentence?

Under the (now repealed) section 12 of the Crimes Sentencing Procedure Act 1999, a court was able to impose a suspended sentence and direct that the offender enter into a good behavior bond.

If the court imposed a sentence of imprisonment of not more than two years, the court was able to direct that:

  • The sentence of imprisonment be suspended for a period specified by the court (provided it did not exceed the term of the sentence).
  • The offender be released from custody on the condition that the offender enter a good behavior bond for a term not exceeding the term of the sentence.

Suspended sentences were only available where the offender was not subject to some other sentence of imprisonment that was the subject of a section 12 order.

The effect of a suspended sentence was that the individual being sentenced did not have to serve their term of imprisonment unless they breached the terms of the suspended sentence, such as by reoffending.

The court could also impose other conditions such as ordering the offender to attend counselling and rehabilitation services, as part of the conditions of the bond.


What was the purpose of a suspended sentence?

The rationale behind the imposition of a suspended sentence was that it imposed on the offender a serious penalty, while also giving them a reprieve from being incarcerated. Such a sentence made clear to the offender that their conduct was unacceptable, while reducing their likelihood of reoffending through the prospect of avoiding prison.


Breaching a suspended sentence

If any of the conditions of a section 12 bond were breached, the court was obligated to revoke the bond unless it was satisfied that:

  • The breach was trivial in nature.
  • There were good reasons for excusing the offender’s non-compliance.

The principal consideration was the conduct that gave rise to the failure to comply with the conditions of the s 12 bond. The triviality of the breach was assessed according to the surrounding circumstances of the breach and the individual involved.

The court considered:

  • The conduct that gave rise to the breach.
  • Attitude of the offender at the time of the breach offence.
  • Extenuating circumstances at the time of the breach offence.
  • Whether the revocation constituted a disproportionate punishment.

There was a presumption that the bond would be revoked in the event of non-compliance.


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