When an offender pleads guilty to an offence or is found guilty of an offence, the Magistrate or Judge has several options available to them in handing down sentence.
Sometimes the sentence is mandatory and the Magistrate or Judge has limited discretion. For example, many driving offences carry mandatory penalties regarding licence disqualification. But most often, the Magistrate or Judge has to carefully consider the nature of the offence and several other factors before deciding on an appropriate sentence. The sentence may include a fine, imprisonment, home detention or good behaviour bonds.
If the offence is relatively minor, a simple good behaviour bond may be imposed. This requires the offender to sign a legally binding document confirming they will be of good behaviour for a period of time (for example, three years). If during the period of good behaviour, the offender gets themselves into further trouble with the law, then not only will they have to deal with the consequences of the new offence but the Magistrate or Judge will have to turn their mind to imposing a further penalty associated with the breach of the bond.
In some other more serious cases, the Magistrate or Judge might consider that a sentence of imprisonment is warranted, but then use their discretion to ‘suspend’ the imprisonment upon the offender entering a bond to be of good behaviour for a period of time.
Here’s an example:
- Mr Jones is found guilty of trafficking cannabis.
- The Magistrates sentences Mr Jones to two years in prison with a 12 month non-parole period, but this sentence is wholly suspended upon Mr Jones entering a bond to be of good behaviour for three years.
- Within that three year period, Mr Jones is caught selling ecstasy at a dance party and charged with that drug offence.
- He is also charged with breaching his bond associated with the original cannabis offence.
- When the Magistrate turns their mind to sentencing Mr Jones, it is likely they will revoke the suspension of the initial sentence, meaning the initial two years in prison with an 12 month non-parole period comes into force.
- Plus, the Magistrate will need to impose a further sentence for the new ecstasy offence, which might increase the non-parole period up to 18 months.
This process can become quite complex.
As a general rule, the subsequent offence needs to be similar to the initial offence for the bond to be revoked. For example, if a three year bond is in place for an offence of indecent assault, it would be unfair to revoke that bond and order immediate custody if the offender is subsequently caught drink driving. The revocation of the bond needs to be proportional to the offending.
"A good behaviour bond often contains further conditions than simply remaining out of trouble for a period of time."
A good behaviour bond often contains further conditions than simply remaining out of trouble for a period of time. Some other conditions might include:
- Weekly reporting at a local police station;
- No alcohol or drugs and required to undertake regular blood and/or urine tests;
- No contact with the victim (this might be relevant to offences of physical assault or sexual indecency);
- No use of the internet (this might be relevant for offences involving access to child pornography).
These are just a few of the conditions that a Magistrate or Judge might include in the bond. Breaching any of the conditions can give rise to an application to revoke the bond which can lead to immediate custody.
Today’s article is written by Associate Michael Irvine. Michael now practices in Civil Litigation and Employment Law. He has previous experience in the field of criminal law. If you have any queries or require assistance in criminal law, please feel free to get in touch directly with one of our lawyers practicing in that field; Toni Monteleone or Nes Alexandropoulos.