March 29, 2023
Lamont Law

What is a community correction order?

A community correction order (or CCO, for short) is an alternative sentencing option that a court can choose to impose instead of a term of imprisonment. It is a community-based order that requires a period of “good behaviour” from the offender as well as submission to other relevant conditions. A supervision order or a community service work order are commonly attached to a CCO.

CCOs were introduced in 2018 as part of a major overhaul of NSW’s Local Court sentencing regime. Under the reforms CCOs were described as a more flexible order that provided a non-custodial alternative to full time imprisonment while still allowing for supervision and intervention into a person’s offending behaviour. A CCO is the strictest community-based order a person can be put under; the next step is some form of imprisonment.

Length of a CCO:

The maximum length of time someone can be under a CCO is 3 years. It will commence on the day the order is made and cannot be backdated.

Standard CCO conditions:

All CCOs come with the same two standard conditions:

  • The offender must not commit any offence (or, the offender must be of “good behaviour”); and
  • The offender must come before the court if they are asked to at any time during the period the CCO is active.

A person must comply with both of these conditions for the duration of the order or face the consequences of breaching a CCO.

Additional CCO conditions:

In addition to the two standard conditions, a person must also be subject to at least one additional condition as decided by the court. The other possible conditions a court can choose to impose include:

  • A condition imposing a curfew – meaning a person must remain at a specified address within the hours specified by the court (but note, the curfew cannot be for more than 12 hours in any 24-hour period)
  • A condition requiring a person to do a certain amount of community service work
  • A condition requiring someone to undergo rehabilitation or a specific treatment program
  • A condition that requires a person to refrain from consuming alcohol or a particular drug or both
  • A condition that prohibits someone from associating with a particular person or group of people
  • A condition that prohibits someone from visiting a particular place or area
  • A condition that requires someone to submit to supervision by a community corrections officer (similar to parole supervision)
  • The court can also impose further conditions as it sees fit for the particular situation (for example, an order to comply with an AVO or an order to pay someone compensation)

Supervision orders:

If a supervision order is attached to a CCO there are several more obligations an offender must fulfill. They are required to regularly report to a community corrections officer and comply with any “reasonable direction” the officer gives. These directions can include:

  • Instructions to reside at a certain place
  • Orders to participate in particular programs, treatments, interventions or activities
  • Participation in certain employment, education or training programs
  • Orders to cease drug/alcohol use
  • Requirements to undergo drug and alcohol testing

It should be noted that all domestic violence offenders that are dealt with via CCO must also be under a supervision order.

Community service work:

If the court is considering imposing a community service work condition on an offender, they must send them for a sentencing assessment report to evaluate their suitability. The court cannot impose a community service work condition unless the assessment indicates that an offender will be suitable for community service and capable of carrying out the specified hours of work.

The maximum penalty associated with an offence will dictate the maximum number of hours of community service a court is allowed to order a person to complete:

Offence categoryMaximum Hours
Offence with max. penalty of 6 months or less imprisonment100 hours  
Offence with max. penalty between 6- and 12-months’ imprisonment200 hours  
Offence with max. penalty that exceeds 12 months’ imprisonment500 hours  

If a person is subject to a community service work condition, there are many obligations they must comply with in order to ensure they do not breach the CCO. Obligations under a community service work condition can include:

  • Signing an attendance register when at community service work sites
  • Performing community service work in accordance with the reasonable directions of community corrections officers or supervisors
  • Keeping any clothing or equipment issued for community service work in good condition
  • Observing the standards of workplace health and safety that may be in place on a particular community service work site
  • Not reporting to community service work while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Submitting to alcohol or drug testing if required

Revoking or varying CCO conditions:

While the two standard CCO conditions must be in place for the entire period of the CCO, any additional conditions may be imposed for a lesser duration or be revoked before the CCO ends.

An offender can make an application to the court to have additional condition/s revoked or varied if they have good reason as to why the particular condition is no longer appropriate. The court can refuse the application if they think it is without merit.

A community corrections officer can make a similar application to have conditions imposed, revoked or varied.

Breaching a CCO:

If the court suspects that a person has breached their CCO in any way, they can call the offender to appear before the court. If someone subject to a CCO has committed a further offence, the court will also check to see if they have breached any community order at the time of the offending.

If the court is satisfied that the offender has failed to comply with any of the conditions under the particular order, they can do one of three things:

  • Decide to take no action
  • Vary or revoke any conditions on the order or impose further conditions
  • Revoke the order

Sometimes the breach to the CCO is accidental or very minor, which is why the court has the discretion to do nothing or make minor adjustments in response to the breach. Where the breach becomes more serious and intentional, it is unlikely the court will choose to ignore the matter.

The most serious consequence resulting from a breach is revocation of the CCO. Once a court revokes the order, they can re-sentence an offender for the original offence. This most often means the person will be subject to a harsher penalty then they were given the first time. In the case of a CCO this is a particular concern, as the next step up is a term of imprisonment.

If a person has breached the CCO by committing another offence, they can be sentenced for both the new offence and the original offence that related to the CCO. The court does not look kindly on failures to comply with court orders, and this is often reflected in the harshness of penalties they impose.