On 16 January 2012, the state government abolished four orders previously used to sentence adult offenders in Victoria. At the same time, the government introduced the community correction order.
The abolition of some orders took effect immediately, including community-based orders, intensive correction orders, and combined custody and treatment orders. This meant that those orders could no longer be used for any offence even if the offence was committed before 16 January 2012.
Suspended sentences were abolished over the same period (effective from 2011 to 2014). This began with their abolition as a sentencing option in the higher courts (County and Supreme Courts) for serious and significant offences committed on or after 1 May 2011. In contrast to other abolished orders, suspended sentences can still be imposed for historical offences depending on the date of the original offence and the type of offence committed.
Combined Custody and Treatment Order
The combined custody and treatment order was introduced in 1997. At the same time, ‘section 28 orders’ were removed as a sentencing option (these orders were a form of conditional suspended sentences for alcoholic and drug-addicted offenders). Combined custody and treatment orders were available for offenders whose drunkenness or drug addiction contributed to the offence. The order involved a term of imprisonment of at least six months followed by supervised treatment in the community.
A court could order a combined custody and treatment order for a maximum of one year. The court was required to record a conviction, and the offender was required to comply with a number of conditions.
Combined custody and treatment orders were abolished on 16 January 2012 by the Sentencing Amendment (Community Correction Reform) Act 2011 (Vic). They were abolished immediately, which meant that they could not be imposed even if the offence was committed before 16 January 2012. They were replaced with community correction orders.
The community-based order was introduced in 1986, replacing the previous community service order. A community-based order was a non-custodial sentence served in the community. It involved core conditions, such as not committing an offence punishable by imprisonment, and at least one program condition, such as treatment or unpaid community work.
A court could impose a community-based order for up to two years, with or without recording a conviction.
Community-based orders were abolished on 16 January 2012 by the Sentencing Amendment (Community Correction Reform) Act 2011 (Vic), effective immediately. From that date, they could not be imposed even if the offence was committed before 16 January 2012. They were replaced with community correction orders.
Home Detention Order
Home detention was first piloted in Victoria in 2004 and was confirmed as a sentencing option in 2006. This order allowed an offender to serve an imprisonment sentence of up to one year by way of home detention. Home detention was not permitted as a sentence for select offences, such as certain sexual and violent offences or the offence of breaching an intervention order.
In addition to its availability as a sentencing option, home detention was available as a ‘back-end’ (post-sentencing and pre-release) option for offenders serving a prison sentence. Such offenders could apply to the Adult Parole Board for home detention in accordance with the provisions of the Corrections Act 1986 (Vic).
The offender needed to consent to the home detention order, as did anyone else living at the premises where the home detention was served. A court ordering home detention was required to record a conviction, and the offender was required to comply with a number of conditions.
Home detention was abolished on 16 January 2012 when the Sentencing Legislation Amendment (Abolition of Home Detention) Act 2011 (Vic) came into effect. From that date, it was no longer available as a sentence or as a post-sentence order. Home detention orders that had been issued before 16 January 2012 continued to run until their completion.
Intensive Correction Order
The intensive correction order was introduced with the Victorian Sentencing Act in 1991, coming into effect in 1992. This order was a term of imprisonment served by way of intensive correction in the community. The order included core conditions, such as attending a community corrections centre for 12 hours per week. A court could impose special conditions, such as alcohol or drug treatment.
An intensive correction order could be imposed for up to one year, and the court was required to record a conviction.
Intensive correction orders were abolished on 16 January 2012 by the Sentencing Amendment (Community Correction Reform) Act 2011 (Vic), effective immediately. From that date, they could not be imposed even for an offence that was committed before 16 January 2012. They were replaced with community correction orders.
Suspended sentences were introduced in Victoria in 1985. This order allowed a court to suspend all or part of an imprisonment sentence for a specified period. Previously, a sentence of imprisonment could be suspended for alcohol and drug dependent offenders (under the Alcoholics and Drug Dependent Persons Act 1968 (Vic)). However, this conditional suspended sentence was abolished in 1997 and replaced by the combined custody and treatment order.
The abolition of suspended sentences occurred in three stages. They were abolished:
- in 2011 in the higher courts for serious and significant offences committed on or after 1 May 2011 (by the Sentencing Amendment Act 2010 (Vic))
- in 2013 in the higher courts for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2013 (by the Sentencing Amendment (Abolition of Suspended Sentences & Other Matters) Act 2013 (Vic))
- in 2014 in the Magistrates’ Court for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2014 (by the Sentencing Amendment (Abolition of Suspended Sentences & Other Matters) Act 2013 (Vic)). This completed the phasing out of suspended sentences as an option for all future offending in Victoria.
During the period of suspension, known as the operational period, the offender is free to live in the community on the condition that he or she does not commit a further offence punishable by imprisonment. If the offender breaches this condition, in addition to being sentenced for the new offence, the suspended prison sentence will be activated unless there are exceptional circumstances.
The removal of suspended sentences was not retrospective, that is, they may still be imposed for offences that were committed before the relevant cut-off dates.
Suspended Sentences in the Supreme and County Courts
Changes to the law in mid 2013 mean that neither the Supreme Court nor the County Court may suspend a sentence of imprisonment for any offence committed on or after 1 September 2013.
The power of these courts to suspend a sentence of imprisonment for an offence committed before 1 September 2013 is also subject to several limitations.
Offences Committed Between 1 November 2006 and 30 April 2011
If the offence is 'serious’ or 'significant’, the Supreme or County Court may suspend the sentence only if there are exceptional circumstances and it is in the interests of justice to do so.
Serious and significant offences include:
- murder and manslaughter
- rape and other serious sexual offences
- intentionally causing serious injury and recklessly causing serious injury
- armed robbery
- aggravated burglary
- arson and arson causing death
- commercial drug trafficking.
Offences Committed Between 1 May 2011 and 31 August 2013
The Supreme and County Courts may suspend a sentence of imprisonment only if the offence is not a 'serious' or 'significant' offence.
Suspended Sentences in the Magistrates’ Court
The Magistrates’ Court cannot suspend a sentence of imprisonment for any offence committed on or after 1 September 2014.
Offences Committed Prior to 1 September 2014
The Magistrates' Court may suspend a sentence of imprisonment unless the sentence is being imposed for a serious or significant offence.
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