Once you have pleaded guilty, or been found guilty, of your charges one of the sentencing options open to a Magistrate is that of a Community Service Order (CSO).
This option will have been assessed by the Community Corrections Officer who completed your Pre-Sentence Report (see blog of 03/10/2013) and you will have signed some paperwork at the time to say that you agree to the conditions of a CSO if the Court gives you one.
A CSO is an order of the Court requiring you to undertake unpaid work in the Community. It is usually imposed if the Magistrate was considering a gaol term and is expressed in hours of work required to be completed.
The Magistrate may order anywhere from 100 hours to 500 hours of work to be performed. The hours roughly translate as 100 hours being equal to 6 months of custody.
When you receive a CSO, you are limited in the amount of time you have to complete it. If you have a total of up to 299 hours then you have 12 months from the date of sentence to complete. From 300 – 500 hours you only have 18 months to complete.
It is imperative that you contact your local office of Corrective Services’ Community Corrections as soon as possible (the Court may give you 7 days, but the sooner the better) to confirm your contact details and to let them know that you have a CSO and how many hours you have been ordered to complete.
You will be advised of details of when you are required to attend the local office of Community Corrections for an induction to your order.
This induction will take several hours and will include an education session on your Rights and Responsibilities under your CSO, Allocation to a work site, and agreement as to day(s) of the week that you will attend for CSO work and production of your attendance sheets (you will have your photo taken for these).
Your allocated work site will be at an approved provider. This could be a Local Government works depot to do work in parks and gardens; a nursing home to do grounds work; a charity organisation, such as the Salvos, sorting donated clothing; or any number of such community based work.
Once you have signed up to your CSO and agreed the day(s) of the week that you are attending it is just like you are working.
If you are sick, or cannot attend work on the allocated day, you must contact both the CSO Organiser at Community Corrections AND the person to whom you report at your work site. You will need to provide a medical certificate for sick days.
The quicker you complete your hours, the better off you will be.
If you do not complete your hours in time, or have too many days off, or your work is unsatisfactory your matter may be returned to Court by the CSO Organiser for revocation of your CSO.
Revocation would mean that the original sentence of the CSO would never have existed and the Court will re-sentence you – and this time it may mean gaol.
The ‘moral’ of the story is – works hard, keep to your agreement and always keep your CSO Organiser informed of your circumstances and you will have no problems.
Remember – this is a ‘last chance’ option for the Court and an opportunity for you to show the Court that you are prepared to do anything necessary to keep out of gaol.
NOTE: David Harradine is not a solicitor and any information contained in the above is his personal opinion and in the nature of general information only. It in no way can replace expert legal opinion supplied by a practising solicitor.