Although suspended sentences are found under the general heading of “Non-custodial alternatives” in the legislation, a suspended sentence is not an alternative to imprisonment – it is a form of imprisonment. This is because a sentence cannot be suspended until it has actually been imposed.
A suspended sentence (also referred to as a section 12 good behaviour bond) is a imprisonment sentence that is suspended upon you entering into a good behaviour bond. This means that if the terms of the bond are obeyed, i.e. you are of good behaviour; the sentence of imprisonment will not come into effect.
Availability of a suspended sentence
A suspended sentence is can only be available if the whole sentence of imprisonment does not exceed 2 years.
Steps involved in imposing a suspended sentence
Step 1: The court must initially determine whether a sentence of imprisonment is appropriate. A court must consider alternative sentencing options and only sentence an offender to imprisonment if it is satisfied, that no penalty other than imprisonment is warranted.
Step 2: Once the Court decides that imprisonment is the appropriate punishment, the court must determine the length of the sentence. This should be considered without taking into account how the sentence will be served.
Step 3: If the term of imprisonment is 2 years or less, the Court decides whether or not to suspend the sentence.
Breaching a suspended sentence
A suspended sentence can be revoked if the court is satisfied that:
- the failure to comply with the bond was not “trivial in nature”; or
- there are no good reasons for excusing the failure to comply with the conditions of the bond.
If the court decides to revoke a suspended sentence, the court may require you to serve the sentence by full-time imprisonment, home detention or by way of an intensive corrections order.
A recognizance release order made under s 20(1)(b) Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) is analogous to a suspended sentence because the court sentences you to imprisonment but directs that the person be released upon giving security.
Different to the NSW equivalent of a suspended sentence, a recognizance order must be made when the total sentence of imprisonment imposed for a federal offence does not exceed 3 years, unless the court is satisfied that it is not appropriate to do so, having regard to the nature of the offence and the personal circumstances of the offender.