The Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Amendment (Sentencing Options) Act 2017, the Crimes (High Risk Offenders) Amendment Act 2017 and the Justice Legislation Amendment (Committals and Guilty Pleas) Act 2017 are awaiting proclamation, but are expected to commence in May 2018. The cumulative effect of the amendments is a very significant overhaul of criminal procedure in the Local Court and of sentencing options in all courts, the likes of which has not occurred since the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 was introduced.
The intent of the legislation is to (a) reduce the number of offenders in custody, by replacing largely unsupervised sentencing options with highly supervised ones and providing fixed discounts for early pleas; and (b) reduce the backlog of trials by speeding up the process, mandating case conferences and encouraging more early pleas of guilty. The likely overall intention is to have fewer and quicker trials and fewer people in gaol for breaches of bonds/orders.
The forthcoming amendments include:
- Intensive Correction Orders (already existing) – substantially augmented and strengthened.
- Community Correction Orders introduced – replaces bonds under s 9
- Community Release Orders introduced – replaces bonds under s 10(1)(b)
- New procedure in the Local Court following charge
- Paper Committals abolished
- Codified discounts for early pleas of guilty
- Simplified brief of evidence requirements
- Eligibility for the High Risk Offenders Scheme expanded
These changes are likely to cause some disturbance and take a while to work themselves out. They may or may not achieve their objectives, but regardless the impact is potentially significant. The commentary will be updated when the legislation commences.
For a full summary of the proposed changes, see the commentary heading “2018 proposed sentencing amendments” in the NSW Criminal Commentary.