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Types of penalties:


Andrew Fraser

Imprisonment (Jail - Full Time):

This is the most serious punishment a Court can impose. Normally a period of imprisonment will be expressed as time to serve plus a further time on supervised parole. The Court must have considered alternatives and be satisfied no other alternative is appropriate. A Magistrate can impose a sentence up to five years depending upon the offence committed. A Supreme Court Judge is limited to the statutory maximum.

Intensive Correction Orders (ICO): - (replacing Periodic Detention)

The ACT has introduced Intensive Correction Orders, replacing the previous sentencing option of Periodic Detention.

The new orders apply only if an adult offender has been convicted of an offence and the court has decided to impose a sentence of imprisonment. If the sentence is for not more than 2 years, the court may order that the sentence be served by Intensive Correction in the community. The court may make an Intensive Correction Order if the sentence of imprisonment is for more than 2 years but not more than 4 years, but only if the court considers it is appropriate to do so, having regard to:

  • the level of harm to the victim and the community caused by the offence; and
  • whether the offender poses a risk to one or more people or the community; and
  • the offender’s culpability for the offence having regard to all the circumstances.

An Intensive Correction Order must not be combined with a sentence of full-time imprisonment, a suspended sentence of imprisonment or a Good Behaviour Order.

Conditions of an Intensive Correction Order

The offender:

  • Must not commit another prisonable offence.
  • Must tell the Director-General of Corrections within 48 hours of any such charge being laid.
  • Must notify any change of address within a day.
  • Must comply with any direction from the Director-General and any probation condition.
  • Must not test positive to alcohol and drugs.
  • Must not leave the ACT without the Director-General’s approval, or Australia without the Sentence Administration Board’s written approval.
  • Must live at any premises as directed, or undertake any program, or report to a Corrections officer or allow a Corrections officer to visit the place where the offender lives at any reasonable time.

An Intensive Correction Order may include 1 or more of the following additional conditions:

  • Community Service, at eight hours a day for up to 550 hours.
  • A rehabilitation program.
  • A reparation order, a non-association order or a place-restriction order.
  • Any other condition that the Court considers appropriate, including in relation to medical treatment and supervision, the provision of samples of blood, breath, hair, saliva or urine for alcohol or drug testing, and attendance at educational, vocational, psychological, psychiatric or other programs or counselling, and can include a ban on driving a motor vehicle or consuming alcohol or non-prescription drugs or medications.

Orders can include a curfew condition if the court is satisfied that each adult who is living at the curfew place or has parental responsibility or guardianship for a person who is living at the curfew place consents to the curfew.

Assessment for Orders and Action for Breaches of Orders

There is an eight-week assessment for an ICO, with supervision throughout that period including home and field visits, alcohol and other drug testing and face-to-face interviews.

Electronic monitoring is provided for in some cases, chiefly in relation to curfews.

Breaches of Intensive Correction Orders are dealt with primarily by the Sentence Administration Board, which may do one or more of the following:

  • Give the offender a warning about the need to comply.
  • Suspend the Intensive Correction Order for 3 days, to be served by full-time imprisonment, if the offender admits that she or he has breached an obligation or, in any other case, seven days’ imprisonment.
  • Cancel the Order, meaning the offender serves his or her sentence by full-time imprisonment.
  • Refer the offender to a court for amendment or discharge of the Order if the board decides that the offender is unlikely to be able to serve the remainder of the Order by Intensive Correction, having regard to the offender’s health or any exceptional circumstances.

The board must not give more than three warnings about the need to comply in a 12-month period.

The board must cancel an Order if an offender withdraws his or her consent to it.



Periodic detention (Jail - Served Part Time):

This sentencing option has been replaced by Intensive Correction Orders (ICO). See above.

This will allow to attend the jail for blocks of sentence during the week or week end for a period of at least three months but no more that two years. If you are sentence to imprisonment for more that two years you are ineligible for periodic detention.

Suspended Sentence

This allows the Court to sentence you to a period of imprisonment and place you on a good behaviour bond. Should you break the good behaviour bond eg be charged and convicted of another offence, then you will have to serve the period of imprisonment. The good behaviour bond may be the same length as the term of imprisonment or longer eg a term of imprisonment may be for six months but the bond for 12 months.

Community Service Order

If the Court orders a Community Service condition to be imposed on a Good Behaviour Order it can be served as either unpaid work in the community at a place specified by ACT Corrective Services or attendance at a program, such as anger management. Before a Community Service condition can be imposed the Court must order a pre-sentence report to assess your eligibility to perform community service work. The minimum amount of hours the Court can impose is 20 hours; the maximum amount of hours the Court can impose is 500 hours for adults and 200 hours for young people. If you received less than 250 hours, the Court must allow 12 months, as a minimum, to complete the hours. If you are given more than 250 hours, the court must allow at least 24 months to complete. If you breach this condition by failing to complete the hours within the time allowed, ACT Corrective Services must submit an alleged breach of the order and your matter will be sent back to the Court and may be resentenced.

Good Behaviour Order

A good behaviour order requires you to be of good behaviour, that is not commit and be convicted of committing criminal offences. Good behaviour orders may also have one or more of the following conditions attached to them such as: a community service condition, rehabilitation condition, a probation condition, a condition prescribed by the regulations or any other condition not inconsistent with the Crimes (Sentencing) Act eg medical treatment, providing bodily samples for testing, attend educational or counseling sessions, not consume drugs or alcohol, not drive a car or go to school (this list is not exhaustive). These conditions are limited to a maximum period of three years duration.

Fine Order

The Court may, where allowed by law and appropriate fine you. The Court must inquire into your financial status. The Court must say how much the fine is and how it is to be paid eg in installments over what period. The maximum a Magistrate can fine you is the maximum amount prescribed by the offence to a maximum of $15,000.00 eg if the fine is $500 then this is the maximum but if the fine is $20,000 the Magistrate is limited to $15,000. A Supreme Court Judge can fine you the maximum penalty of the offence. Where no fine amounts are specified a Magistrate is limited to $2,000 and a Supreme Court Judge to $10,000.

Penalty Units

ACT Acts and Regulations use penalty units to describe the amount payable for a fine. Penalty units are used instead of dollar amounts because the rate for penalty units is indexed for inflation and may therefore change. Section 133 of the Legislation Act tells you the dollar amount of one penalty unit. Currently, 1 penalty unit equals to $160.

To convert the amount in penalty units into a dollar amount, simply multiply $160 by the number of penalty units. For example, if the maximum penalty is 5 penalty units: 5 x $160 = $800

Therefore, a fine of 5 penalty units would amount to a fine of $800.

Non Conviction Order

If the Magistrate or Judge have decided the offence you have committed or the method by which you have committed the offence do not justify a conviction you may be dealt with in two ways:

  • a. An order directing the charge be dismissed, if the Court is satisfied that it is not appropriate to impose any punishment (other than nominal punishment); or
  • b. A good behaviour order – a good behaviour order may be subject to the same conditions as set out above except a community service condition, or none other than to be of good behaviour.

Reparation Order

If you are convicted or found guilty a reparation order may be sought of the victim of the crime is out of pocket in any way as a direct result of the commission of the offence.

Non Association Order

If you receive a periodic detention sentence or a good behaviour order you may also have a non-association order made against you. A non-association order prevents you from being with or communicating with a named person or attempting to be with or communicate with them.

Place Restriction Order

If you receive a periodic detention sentence or a good behaviour order you may also have a place restriction order made against you. This means an order prohibiting you from being in, or within, a stated distance of, a named place or area, or attempting to be so.

Deferred Sentence Order

If you have been convicted of, or found guilty of an offence, and you are unlikely to be sentenced to imprisonment, the Court may give you an opportunity to address an issue that caused you to commit the offence. Eg if you were under the influence of a drug at the time of the offence because you are an addict, the Court may allow you time to address that addiction and take it into account ton sentence at a later time. The maximum period allowed for a deferred sentence order is 12 months.

combination Sentence

The Court may impose a combination sentence combining two or more of the options stated.


where to next?

If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

Why Choose Armstrong Legal?

Contact Armstrong Legal:
Canberra: (02) 6288 1100
Brisbane: (07) 3229 4448
Sydney: (02) 9261 4555
Melbourne: (03) 9620 2777