If you are guilty of a criminal offence in NSW, you may receive a good behaviour bond instead of a prison sentence or other penalty.
Although a good behaviour bond is often considered to be a lenient penalty, it’s important that you understand the terms of the bond and that you don’t do anything that could breach your bond, or you may end up being brought back to court and facing heavier penalties.
What is a breach of bond?
When you are sentenced to a good behaviour bond, you will be given a number of different conditions to abide by.
The normal conditions will be:
- That you are of good behaviour, in other words that you don’t commit any further offences,
- That you come back to court if you’re called upon to do so, but you will not normally be called upon to do so unless you commit a further offence, and
- That you inform the court registry of any change in your address.
Further conditions might include attending mandatory drug or alcohol counselling, or completing a driver education program such as the traffic offender program, or abiding by directions of a health care professional such as a psychologist or general practitioner.
If you don’t abide by these terms, it will be considered a breach of bond and the consequences will depend on your circumstances, how severe the breach is, and the discretion of the magistrate or judge.
Will I have to go to jail if I breach my bond?
This will largely depend upon the type of bond that you’re under and the nature of the breach.
Section 12 good behaviour bonds are also called ‘suspended sentences’.
Breaching this type of bond is likely to result in a prison sentence being imposed, unless the breach is trivial.
If a section 12 bond is breached and revoked, and a prison sentence is imposed, a non-parole period will then be set – which is the period that you will have to spend in prison before being eligible for release.
However, breaching other types of bonds such as those under section 10 (bond without conviction) and section 9 (bond with conviction) will not necessarily mean that you will be sent to prison.
You will, however, be called back to court where the magistrate or judge will have a number of options, including:
- Taking no action at all,
- Revoking (cancelling) the bond and imposing a longer or more serious one eg revoking a section 10 bond and imposing a section 9 bond, or
- Revoking the bond and imposing a different type of penalty eg community service order or even prison time.
What happens will often be at the court’s discretion.
Although every case and every magistrate and judge is different, there are a number of different factors that will most likely be considered when determining the next step after a breach of bond.
As stated, there are three main categories of good behaviour bonds that are given to offenders, and the consequences of breaching them may differ:
- If you are under a Section 10 good behaviour bond this means that you were found guilty of an offence but weren’t convicted. Generally, a magistrate or judge will give an offender a Section 10 and release them on a good behaviour bond for a period of up to two years.
- A Section 9 good behaviour bond is given following a conviction as an alternative to a custodial sentence.
- A Section 12 bond (‘suspended sentence’). Section 12 good behaviour bonds are given after an offender has been sentenced to a term in jail. They are the most serious type of bond.
The likelihood of you having to go to jail will depend largely on the type of offence that was originally committed, and whether it is punishable by jail, and the extent of the breach.
For minor offences and traffic offences it is unlikely that you will be sentenced to prison, it will be more likely that you will be given community service or ordered to pay a fine.
If your section 10 good behaviour bond is revoked and you are convicted, you will be given a criminal record which can cause problems for you in the future.
If your section 10 bond related to a driving offence, you may end up losing your licence.
Will I have to go back to court?
If you breach a good behaviour bond, you will normally be called back to court.
The magistrate or judge will look at all the circumstances around what happened and decide what further action to take, if any.
If you have breached the terms of your good behaviour bond, it is a good idea to seek legal advice as soon as possible.
An experienced lawyer can advise you on your options and help ensure you get the best possible outcome, including guiding you on measures that can increase your likelihood of having no action taken for the breach.