Communities and Justice

Sentencing reform

Summary of reform

In September 2018, reforms to strengthen community-based sentencing commenced. The changes aimed to make the community safer by holding offenders to account and reducing reoffending.

Key changes

Courts have better information about offenders at the time of sentencing to help tailor sentences and impose supervision and conditions that hold offenders to account and address their risk of reoffending.

The Intensive Correction Order (ICO) has beenwas overhauled.  All offenders who receive an ICO are subject to supervision by Community Corrections Officers. Courts have greater flexibility to add conditions such as home detention, electronic monitoring, curfews and community service work (which is no longer a mandatory condition).

Suspended sentences have beenwere abolished.

There is a presumption that domestic violence offenders either receive a supervised community-based sentence or are imprisoned, unless the court has clear reasons why another sentence is more appropriate.

More offenders at risk of returning to crime are subject to supervision and programs to address their offending behaviour. 


Before the changes, many offenders received unsupervised sentences. Supervision of offenders at risk of returning to crime has been found to reduce reoffending by addressing the causes of an offender's behaviour.

Reducing reoffending means less crime and fewer victims in our communities. 

This reform builds built on recommendations of the 2013 NSW Law Reform Commission Sentencing Report.

Intended benefits

The sentencing reform was intendedis expected to:

  • hold offenders accountable
  • result in more offenders at risk of returning to crime under close supervision and participating in community rehabilitation programs (proven to reduce reoffending)
  • improve community safety by reducing reoffending (less crime means fewer victims).

How the scheme works in practice

New community-based sentences have been introduced. 

Strengthened orders Replaces
Intensive Correction Order (ICO)

Home detention orders

Suspended sentences

Old Intensive Correction Orders 

Community Correction Order (CCO)

Community service orders

Good behaviour bonds

Conditional Release Order (CRO) Non-conviction bonds

Intensive Correction Order (ICO) 

An ICO is a custodial sentence of up two years that the court decides can be served in the community. Community safety is the court's paramount consideration when making this decision.

The old ICO has beenwas overhauled. Unlike suspended sentences, supervision is mandatory. Courts can add conditions to an ICO such as home detention, electronic monitoring, curfews, community service work (up to 750 hours), alcohol/drug bans, place restrictions, or non-association requirements. Offenders may also be required to participate in programs that target the causes of their behaviour.

Community Corrections Officers have clearer authority to deal with breaches of conditions in real time. For more serious breaches, offenders will continue to be referred to the State Parole Authority (SPA) and may be required to serve the remainder of their sentence in custody.

The ICO is the most serious sentence that an offender can serve in the community. ICOs are not be available for offenders who have been convicted of murder, manslaughter, sexual assault, any sexual offence against a child, offences involving discharge of a firearm, terrorism offences, breaches of serious crime prevention orders, or breaches of public safety orders.

A domestic violence offender can only be sentenced to an ICO if the court is satisfied that the victim or likely co-residents can be adequately protected. For example, a domestic violence offender is not eligible for an ICO with a home detention condition if they are intending to reside with the victim.

Community Correction Order (CCO)

Courts can use the Community Correction Order to punish offenders for crimes that do not warrant imprisonment or an ICO, but are too serious to be dealt with by a fine or lower level penalty.

The benefit of CCOs is that they are a flexible sentence that the court can tailor to reflect the nature of the offender and the offence. The court can select from the range of conditions, such as supervision by Community Corrections Officers, community service work (up to 500 hours) and curfews, to hold offenders to account and reduce their risk of reoffending. CCOs can be imposed for a period of up to three years.

Conditional Release Order (CRO)

Courts can use the Conditional Release Order to deal with first time and less serious offences where the offender is unlikely to present a risk to the community.

The benefit of CROs is that the court can impose conditions such as drug and alcohol abstention, programs, non-association requirements or place restrictions where appropriate. CROs can also have a supervision condition. Courts have discretion to impose a conviction on a CRO, if they consider it appropriate. CROs can be imposed for a period of up to two years.

The CRO acts as a warning and provides the option to divert less serious offenders out of the criminal justice system, freeing up resources to deal with the offenders who cause the greatest concern to the community. If an offender commits any further offences while on a CRO, subsequent penalties may be more severe.

More offenders on supervision 

  • Supervision requires an offender to regularly report to and obey reasonable directions from their Community Corrections Officer. 
  • Evidence shows supervision of offenders at risk of returning to crime, combined with rehabilitation is the best way to reduce reoffending. New guidelines, based on international best practice, have been implemented to improve supervision to the right offenders at the right time. 
  • When supervising offenders, officers use cognitive and behavioural interventions to reduce the risk that the offender will return to crime. 
  • Community Corrections Officers are fully trained and well equipped to manage offenders. They also monitor an offender's compliance with any conditions of their sentence, such as curfews, ongoing participation in rehabilitation programs or restrictions on where an offender can go.
Last updated:

31 Aug 2023