What is a Conditional Release Order in New South Wales?

by Patrick O’Sullivan
Scales of justice

On 24 September 2018, the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Amendment (Community-based Orders and Other Matters) Regulation 2018 came into effect.

The Regulation amended the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (the Act) by, among other things, replacing the old “section 10(1)(b) good behaviour bonds” with the newer Conditional Release Orders (CROs) under section 9 of the Act.

What are the benefits of a CRO?

CROs are a way for a person who pleads guilty or is found guilty of a criminal or major traffic offence to avoid a harsh penalty, or even a criminal conviction altogether, provided the person complies with the conditions of the order.

CROs are seen by the court as the most lenient penalty that can be handed down, other than dismissing the case unconditionally under section 10(1)(a) of the Act.

For those required to undertake police checks for work, travel or other reasons, avoiding a criminal conviction under section 10(1)(a) or a CRO without a conviction can be extremely important.

Factors taken into account

When deciding whether to make a CRO (or grant a section 10(1)(a) dismissal for that matter), the sentencing judge or magistrate is required to consider the following factors:

  1. The person’s character, history, age, health and mental condition,
  2. Whether the offence is trivial,
  3. Any extenuating circumstances in which the offence was committed, and
  4. Any other matter the court thinks proper to consider.

The presence or absence of any of these factors is not in and of itself decisive, but each is relevant, and the last subsection provides the court with overriding discretion to determine whether a CRO is the appropriate sentence.

How long does a CRO last?

A CRO comes with a good behaviour bond which can last for up to 2 years.

What conditions must accompany a CRO?

During this time, two standard conditions apply to the order:

  1. The person must not commit any other criminal or major traffic offence, and
  2. The person appear before the court if called on to do so at any time during the term of the CRO.

Major traffic offences include drink driving, drug driving, driving whilst suspended or disqualified, reckless driving and dangerous driving.

A person will normally only be called back to the court if a condition of the CRO has been breached; normally by committed an offence during its duration.

What additional conditions can be imposed on a CRO?

In addition to the standard conditions, the court may choose to impose any or all of the following conditions:

  1. A rehabilitation or treatment condition requiring participation in a rehabilitation program or to receive treatment,
  2. A condition requiring abstention from alcohol and/or drugs,
  3. A non-association condition prohibiting association with particular persons,
  4. A place restriction condition prohibiting the frequenting of, or visits to, a particular place or area, and/or
  5. A supervision condition.

These conditions are meant to address underlying issues, help to provide ongoing support and reduce the risk of reoffending.

What happens if the CRO is breached?

If any conditions are breached before the expiry of the CRO, the court can call the person back to review the breach, and potentially revoke the order and impose another penalty.

Thorough preparation and persuasive presentation

A CRO is an appropriate for many offences before the courts, but they are never a guaranteed result.

An experienced, specialist criminal defence lawyer can guide you to prepare the right material – such as character references, a letter of apology and any relevant letters from counsellors or other mental health professionals – and persuasively present the case before the court, drastically improving your prospects of a positive outcome.

Going to court for a criminal offence or a major traffic offence?

If you are seeking to avoid a criminal record for a criminal or major traffic offence, call Sydney Criminal Lawyers anytime on (02) 9261 8881 and let our experienced, specialist defence lawyers help to prepare your case, persuasively present it in court and fight for the optimal outcome.

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Author

Patrick O’Sullivan

Patrick O’Sullivan is an experienced criminal defence lawyer with a special interest in social justice issues including mental health, the rights of the vulnerable and access to the criminal justice system.

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