What is a Recognizance Release Order?

by Sonia Hickey & Ugur Nedim
Trinity Grammar School

A former teacher at one of Sydney’s most elite private schools has been sentenced in court for sending sexual messages to a person he believed was a 13-year old girl.

While 40-year Alexander Simpson didn’t know it at the time, the person he was communicating with was, in fact, an undercover police officer, not a child.

The former teacher at Trinity Grammar, an all-boys’ school in Sydney’s inner west, was arrested in front of students in August 2020 and charged with Commonwealth sexual offences.

Photos exchanged

Mr Simpson revealed early in the exchange that he was a teacher, and asked how old the young girl was. He also asked whether the girl was a virgin and if she had been with a 40-year-old man.

He sent a photo of himself fully clothed and another showing his erect penis. He asked for a selfie in return.

When he received the selfie, Mr Simpson replied: “You have a great smile although I can’t get my eyes off your tits. Lol sorry.”

The teacher repeatedly asked for photos of the girl’s breasts, which resulted in the undercover officer sending a picture of a girl in a bra.

Mr Simpson also wrote: “If I ask for a pic you should be flattered it’s because I want to see more of you…. I also like it when you do what you are told.”

Plea of guilty

Mr Simpson pleaded guilty to using a ‘carriage service’ (such as the phone or internet’ to transmit an indecent communication to a child under the age of 16 years, which is an offence under section 474.27A of the Criminal Code Act 1995, which carries a maximum penalty of 7 years in prison.

He further pleaded guilty to using a carriage service to solicit child abuse material under section 474.22 of the same Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

During the District Court sentencing hearing, the defendant told the court he used the chat rooms to “escape the stresses” of life.

The court also heard Mr Simpson is married with children, and is the sole carer for his wife who has a permanent disability.

Judge Leonie Flannery ultimately sentenced him to 24 months in prison, noting that such crimes “exploit the vulnerability of youth and inappropriately sexualise young people before they are able to protect themselves”.

However, the judge took into account a range of factors including the plea of guilty, the defendant’s deep remorse, his efforts to rehabilitate through seeing a psychologist and his unlikeliness to reoffend before determining he would not be sent to prison but, rather, would have to enter and abide by a recognizance release order for the term of his sentence.

Under the order, Ms Simpson must be of good behaviour, not travel interstate, be monitored by corrective services and continue his treatment with a psychologist.

What is a recognizance release order?

Section 20(1)(b) of the Crimes Act 1914(Cth) allows a person who is sentenced to a term of imprisonment for a Commonwealth offence to avoid going to prison for all or part of the period, conditional upon the person entering into a good behaviour bond for up to a period of 5 years.

This is known as a ‘recognizance release order’.

There are two broad types of recognizance release orders:

  1. Where a person is immediately released into the community conditional upon entering the bond, and
  2. Where a person who is sentenced to a term of 3 years or less in prison is released from custody after serving a specified period of the time behind bars, conditional upon entry into a bond for the remainder of the term.

Conditions that come with the recognizance release order include:

  • Being of ‘good behaviour’, which means not committing any criminal offences for the duration of the order, and
  • Agreeing to pay a sum of money if the order is breached.

The order can have a range of other conditions, including:

  • Undertaking psychological counselling,
  • Complying with supervision by community corrections, and/or
  • Paying restitution, reparations or compensation for the damage caused by the offence.

Breaching a recognizance release order can result in a person being called back before the court and dealt with for the breach, in which case the court may:

  • Take no action for the breach,
  • Extend the period of compliance for the conditions in the order, or
  • Revoke the order and impose an alternative sentence, which may include full time imprisonment.

Going to court for a Commonwealth Offence?

If you have been accused of a Commonwealth offence, it is important to engage specialist criminal defence lawyers with up-to-date knowledge and vast experience in the field.

The legal team at Sydney Criminal Lawyers is vastly experienced in Commonwealth criminal cases, including offences brought under the Criminal Code Act 1995, and have an exceptional track record of having federal charges withdrawn or significantly downgraded at early stages of the proceedings, or dismissed in court if they reach a defended hearing or jury trial.

Our team also has an exceptional track record of helping those who wish to plead guilty of receiving alternatives to imprisonment, including orders without a criminal conviction.

So call us anytime on (02) 9261 8881 and let our profession-leading criminal defence team fight for the optimal outcome.

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Authors

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.

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with over 20 years of experience as a criminal defence lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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