Repeal of mandatory sentencing and reform of community based sentencing options

Sentencing reform for a safer Territory

Introduction

The NT Government is reforming mandatory sentencing and simplifying community-based sentencing orders to break the cycle of reoffending, prioritise victim safety and hold offenders accountable.

These changes are in response to the Northern Territory Law Reform Committee’s Report into Mandatory Sentencing and Community Based Sentencing Options and will be supported and informed by the NT Government’s Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Reduction Framework 2018–2022, Safe, Respected and Free from Violence.

The reforms will include the repeal of mandatory sentencing for a number of offences, including:

  • drug offences
  • violent offences (except assaulting police or emergency worker)
  • breaches of domestic violence orders.

Stakeholder engagement is a significant component of this reform, and consultation will take place throughout the process, including immediate work being undertaken to prioritise victim safety and co-design behaviour change programs with victim services.

Alignment with NT Government priorities

  • NT’s Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Reduction Framework 2018-2028, Safe, Respected and Free from Violence.
  • The Government has established a 12-month Domestic Family and Sexual Violence Inter-Agency Co‑ordination and Reform Office (DFSV-ICRO) so that all relevant agencies - Police, Health, Territory Families, Education and Justice - can all work together with a single point of accountability to prevent and respond to DFSV. The DFSV-ICRO will lay out a whole-of-government reform agenda for DFSV. This will include reforms within the existing operational capability of agencies and identify areas where new investment is required.
  • Northern Territory Aboriginal Justice Agreement 2021-2027.

Summary of legislative amendments

What does the Sentencing and Other Amendment Legislation Bill 2022 (the Bill) propose?

The Bill will do the following:

  • repeal mandatory sentencing for certain categories of offences
  • remove the mandatory non-parole periods that apply to certain categories of offences and insert a new standard non-parole period of 50% of the head sentence
  • reform and simplify the types of orders that a person can be sentenced to after being found guilty of an offence, including more flexible community-based orders.

The Bill is scheduled for introduction into the Legislative Assembly in October 2022, and expected to commence in the second half of 2023.

Legislative amendments to mandatory sentencing

What does repealing mandatory sentencing mean?

This means that for the specified categories of offences, the judge will no longer have to impose a period of imprisonment for a specified length of time. A judge will now also be able to impose other community-based options to address offending behaviours, although the option of imprisonment remains.

What category of offences do these apply to?

The offences where mandatory sentencing is being repealed include violent offences such as assaults, drug offences, including possession and trafficking, and repeat breaches of domestic violence orders (DVO). Mandatory sentencing will be repealed for:

  • violent offences (under Part 3, Division 6A of the Sentencing Act 1995)
  • drug offences (under section 37(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1990 and section 55(1) of the Sentencing Act 1995)
  • repeat breach of DVO offences (under section 121(2) of the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007).

What categories of offences still have mandatory sentencing attached to them?

The Bill will not repeal all mandatory sentencing in the NT. Murder, serious sexual offending, assaults against police and emergency workers, and serious property offences will all still retain mandatory periods of imprisonment.

Will it apply to youth offenders?

The new penalties relating to breaching family and domestic violence orders apply to both adults and youths. The new community-based orders will only apply to youths who are sentenced in the Supreme Court for more serious types of offending. Penalties for youth offenders who are sentenced in the Local Court will not be affected.

New enforced corrections orders

What changes are being made to community based orders?

Instead of a number of different orders that have complex conditions and restrictions, the amendments will simplify the current sentencing regime by creating two new enforced corrections orders based on whether the sentence is custodial or non-custodial. Suspended sentences will be retained under the Bill.

What are the differences in the types of orders that a court can make?

The Community Correction Order (CCO) is intended to apply to lower level offending that does not warrant imprisonment. It is an order of up to two years and is served in the community with certain conditions imposed which may include supervision, community work, curfews, electronic monitoring, or participation in behaviour change programs.

The Intensive Community Correction Order (ICCO) will apply to more serious offending, and is a custodial order that is served in the community. It can be imposed with or without an actual term of imprisonment. The order is up to a period of two years and includes a condition of mandatory supervision and any other additional conditions, such as residential/movement restrictions, curfews and electronic monitoring as necessary.

Legislative amendments to minimum mandatory non-parole periods

Will there be changes to non-parole periods?

Yes. Mandatory non-parole periods will no longer apply to violent offences such as assault, drug offences and repeat breaches of DVO, but the court will still be required to impose a non-parole period of at least fifty per cent of the head sentence if it considers that a non-parole period is appropriate in the circumstances.

Development of programs and services to support the reforms

Services to support victims of crime

How will victims of crime be protected?

Support to victims is integral to the project and victim safety will be prioritised.

Over the next 12 months, Government will work with victims of crime, health professionals and other stakeholders to develop new, enforced behaviour change programs. This will include co-designing programs with victim services. This process will have a focus on preventing domestic and family violence and prioritising victim safety.

This work will be supported by the work undertaken by the Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Inter-Agency Coordination and Reform Office (DFSV-ICRO).

Transitional arrangements

Will offenders currently serving a period of mandatory imprisonment be able to be released?

No. The repeals to mandatory sentencing and the new community based orders will only apply to people who are sentenced after the legislation takes effect.

Will offenders currently being supervised by Corrections on an old order need to transfer to a new order?

No. The offender will continue to be supervised by Corrections on the old order and will still have to comply with the conditions of the old order.

What will happen where an offender has breached a condition of an old order?

If there is a breach of any condition of the old order, the old penalties will be applied.


Last updated: 23 November 2022

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