Penalties in NSW – Community Service


Community service is where an offender is required to perform a specific number of hours of work for the community; up to a maximum of 500 hours (see section 8 Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW)).

Under section 86 of the Act, a community service order can only be made if the Judge is ‘satisfied’ that:

  • the offender is a ‘suitable person’ (s86(1)(a));
  • such a sentence is ‘appropriate in all the circumstances’ (ss(b));
  • arrangements exist, and work community service work is available, in the offender’s area (ss(c) & (d));
  • the offender has signed an undertaking to comply with the community service order (ss(e)).

In deciding whether or not to make such an order, the Judge must consider:

  • the contents of any assessment report on the offender (eg a ‘pre-sentence report’)(s86(2)(a)); and
  • any evidence given by a probation and parole officer (ss(b)).

Before the Judge sentences the offender to community service, he or she may refer the offender to the Probation and Parole Service (the ‘PPS’) for assessment of the offender’s suitability for such a sentence (s88).

If the Judge does this, the PPS must investigate the offender’s suitability and prepare a report for the Judge (s89).

The Judge can ‘impose such conditions as… [he or she] considers appropriate on any community service order’ except conditions requiring the offender to pay money (s90(1)).

Such conditions may require that the offender ‘participate in development programs’ (eg drug & alcohol program) (ss(2)(a), ‘undergo testing or assessment for alcohol or drug use’ (ss(b)), and so on.

Any order for a ‘development program’ cannot, however, require the offender to attend more than 3 times a week (ss(3)(a)), or for more than 15 hours per week (ss(b)), or for a total of more than 20 hours (ss(c)).

A community service order may recommend the removal of graffiti from, or restoration of, buildings, vehicles, vessels or places (s91).

When imposing a community service order, the Judge should take ‘all reasonable steps’ to explain the offender’s obligations (s90(1)(a)) and the consequences of breaching the order (ss(b)).

Soon after imposing a community service order, the Court must send the offender details of the order eg where and when he or she must report for service (eg to the Probation and Parole Service within 7 days) (s93).