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Community service orders

A community service order is available as a penalty in a number of circumstances:

  • as a primary penalty for an offence; or
  • as a condition of an intensive correction order; or
  • as a condition of a bond; or
  • as ordered by the court on application of the Fines Enforcement and Recovery Unit, where a defendant has been unable to pay a fine or other pecuniary debt.

Community service can also be undertaken in certain circumstances pursuant to a voluntary agreement between a debtor and the Fines Enforcement and Recovery Unit to offset an outstanding debt (either from an outstanding expiation notice or pecuniary sum) [see Fines Enforcement and Debt Recovery Act 2017 (SA) ss 15, and 20]. As this is a voluntary agreement, no court order is required.

An order for community service must not exceed a total of 300 hours, with a minimum requirement of 15 hours [Sentencing Act 2017 (SA) s 105(1)(a)]. However, where community service is ordered following an application by the Fines Enforcement and Recovery Unit for failure to pay a fine, there is no limit on the number hours that can be ordered [see Fines Enforcement and Debt Recovery Act 2017 (SA) s 46(7)]. There must be a time specified within which the community service work is to be completed, and this cannot exceed 18 months [Sentencing Act 2017 (SA) s 105(1)(c)]. Section 105 of the Sentencing Act 2017 (SA) does not apply to the performance of community service work by a young person.

Usually community service is arranged through Correctional Services, and a person subject to a community service order will have a community corrections officer assigned to them [Sentencing Act 2017 (SA) s 107(1)]. If a person fails to obey a direction given to them by a community corrections officer, the Minister for Correctional Services can increase the number of hours of service that the person is required to perform, by not more than 24 aggregate hours [see ss 89(1) and 112(1)]. This can occur without commencing court proceedings for a breach of the community service order, although an application for a breach of the order can still be made [see ss 112 and 113].

Community service orders can be varied or revoked by the court and the time to complete the service may be extended by up to six months by either the court of the Minister for Correctional Services [s 110].

The Minister for Correctional Services can also cancel unperformed hours of community service [s 111]. There must be substantial compliance with the original requirement, together with no apparent intention to deliberately evade the obligations under the order and a sufficient reason for not insisting on the performance of those hours. The Minister cannot waive performance of more than ten hours under one bond or order.

If a person fails to complete the ordered community service work within the time specified, an application to breach them may be made in court. Non-performance of community service work is enforceable by imprisonment, with every 7.5 hours not completed equalling one day in prison, or six months, whichever is the lesser [s 115(2)]. If the failure to comply with the order was trivial or there are proper grounds to do so, the court may instead give the person more time to complete the service or may cancel some or all of the remaining hours [s 115(7)]. If the person has the ability to pay a fine, the court may order that instead [s 115(8)].

Community service orders  :  Last Revised: Thu May 23rd 2019
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.