The Crimes Act 1914 contains a number of provisions enabling those who plead guilty or are found guilty of a Commonwealth criminal offence to avoid going to prison, despite a criminal conviction being recorded against them.
Section 20(1)(b) of the Act allows a person who is sentenced to imprisonment for a Commonwealth offence to avoid going to prison for all or part of the term of the sentence conditional upon entry 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:
- Where a defendant is immediately released into the community conditional upon entering a bond, or
- Where a defendant with a prison sentence of 3 years or less is released from custody after serving a specified period of the time in prison, conditional upon entering a bond for the remainder of the time.
Conditions that come with the recognizance release orders include being of ‘good behaviour’ – which means not committing any criminal offences for the duration of the order – agreeing to pay a sum of money if the order is breached.
There can be a number of additional conditions, which may include:
- Undertaking mental health support or treatment, such as counselling,
- Complying with supervision by community corrections, and/or
- Paying a monetary order such 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 complying with conditions of the order, or
- Revoking the order and imposing an alternative sentence, which may include full time imprisonment.
A recognizance release order is not available for certain offences including terrorism, treachery, espionage and treason.