On 24 September 2018, conditional release orders replaced good behaviour bonds under section 10(1)(b) of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999.
Conditional release orders 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 they comply with the conditions of the order.
The new law is contained in section 9 of the Act which states:
“9(1) Instead of imposing a sentence of imprisonment or a fine (or both) on an offender, a court that finds a person guilty of an offence may make a conditional release order discharging the offender, if:
(a) the court proceeds to conviction, or
(b) the court does not proceed to conviction but makes an order under Section 10 bond.
(2) In deciding whether to make a conditional release order with a conviction, the sentencing court is to have regard to the following factors:
(a) the person’s character, antecedents, age, health and mental condition,
(b) whether the offence is of a trivial nature,
(c) the extenuating circumstances in which the offence was committed,
(d) any other matter that the court thinks proper to consider.”
This means a conditional release order is more likely where an offence less serious, there were reasons behind its commission and the defendant is otherwise a person of good character.
That said, conditional release orders are not restricted to specific categories of offences – rather, a court can order a CRO for any offence.
CROs cannot be made in the absence of the defendant.
A CRO must contain the following conditions:
- That the defendant not commit any further offences,
- That the defendant must attend court if called upon to do so.
A person will only normally be called upon to attend court if he or she breaches the order.
Additional conditions that can be placed on a CRO are:
- To participate in rehabilitation programs or receive treatments,
- Abstain from alcohol, drugs or both,
- Not associate with particular persons,
- Not frequent or visit particular places,
- Come under the supervision of community corrections officers or, in the case of young persons, juvenile justice officers.
A CRO cannot include:
- A fine,
- Home detention,
- Electronic monitoring,
- A curfew, or
- Community service work.
The defendant or a community corrections officer can apply to a court to revoke, amend or add conditions to a CRO at any time after it is ordered.
However, the mandatory conditions must remain in place.
A CRO can last for up to two years.
If it is suspected that a CRO condition has been breached, the defendant may be ordered to attend court to determine whether a breach has in fact occurred.
If a breach is established, the court may:
- take no action
- add, change or revoke conditions, or
- revoke the CRO in its entirety.
If the CRO is revoked, the defendant will be resentenced for the original offence.