Community Correction Orders: Diverting Offenders Away from the Criminal Justice System

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Scales of justice

Tim Mathieson, who is perhaps best known as the “first bloke” for being the partner of Julia Gillard when she was prime minister, has pleaded guilty to a sexual offence in Victoria.

The 66-year old appeared before Melbourne Magistrates’ Court remotely via audio/visual link from his lawyers’ offices on 27 July 2023, and entered a plea of guilty to one count of sexually touching another person without consent.

According to reports, Mr Mathieson originally faced three charges but the prosecution accepted a plea of guilty to one in satisfaction of all of them, meaning two of the counts were formally withdrawn.

The offending conduct to which he pleaded guilty is reported to be sucking on a woman’s nipples in Melbourne’s CBD on 13 March last year without her consent in circumstances where he was reasonably aware she was not consenting.

Mr Mathieson’s criminal defence lawyers applied for the sentencing proceedings to be adjourned for their client’s eligibility and suitability for a diversionary program to be assessed.

The adjournment was granted and it is likely that if he is found to qualify, he will avoid a prison term and instead be required to come under supervision and undertake any directed program.

The case will return to court in late August at which time Mr Mathieson is likely to receive his sentence.

What is a ‘diversionary programme?’

 In Victoria, a diversionary scheme is available for low-level first time criminal offenders. Diversion enables participation in counselling and / or treatment programme to address any underlying issues and thereby reduce the likelihood of reoffending.

It is not available for people with prior convictions, and where the charge involves a victim, the victim will be consulted for their view on the matter, with respect to:

  • Whether they agree on the course of action
  • How affected they are by the crime
  • The amount of compensation sought for damage to property involved in the crime.

It is not compulsory for the victim to have a say, however in most cases, the police officer who issued the charge also must agree to diversion.

When the conditions of the diversion plan are complete, the charges are dismissed with no finding of guilt and are recorded on a person’s record in a similar way to an official warning.

No criminal record will be recorded.

If the conditions of the diversion plan are not met and completed, the matter will return to court.

Community Correction Orders

New South Wales also has several diversionary orders used as an alternative to prison.

Perhaps the most common of these is known as a community correction order (CCO).

A CCO can last for up to three years and will contain the following standard conditions:

  • The defendant must not commit any further offences, and
  • The defendant must attend court if called upon to do so.

A defendant will normally only be called back before the court if he or she has breached the terms of the order by, for example, committing another criminal offence.

In that event, the fact the offence was committed while on a CCO will be considered an aggravated factor of the fresh offence.

If a breach of the CCO is indeed established, the court may:

  • Take no action
  • Add, change or revoke additional conditions, or
  • Revoke the CCO in its entirety.

If the CCO is revoked, an alternative sentence sentence may be imposed for the original offence.

Courts may impose additional conditions on CCOs, such as:

  • A curfew not exceeding 12 hours in any 24 hour period,
  • Compulsory undertaking community service work of up to 500 hours,
  • Participation in a rehabilitation program or receive treatment,
  • Abstinence from alcohol and/or drugs,
  • An order not to associate with a particular person/s,
  • An order not to enter or frequent a particular place or area, and/or
  • Supervision by community corrections officer or, if under 18, by a juvenile justice officer.

A court cannot order a CCO for a domestic violence offence unless it has considered the safety of the complainant.

Importantly, the court can limit the period that any additional condition applies; so, for example, a three-year CCO may contain a curfew that lasts for only three months.

The following conditions cannot be included in a CCO:

  • Home detention,
  • Electronic monitoring, or
  • A curfew of more than 12 hours in any 24 hour period.

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Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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