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Suspended sentences

Where a court thinks that an offence is serious enough to impose imprisonment but there is good reason to suspend the sentence, it may do so on the condition that the person enters into a bond [see Sentencing Act 2017 (SA) s 96]. A sentence may be suspended because of factors relating to the defendant (such as age, ill health, or previous good character) which suggest the defendant should not immediately be imprisoned.

However, a court may not suspend:

  • a sentence of imprisonment that is to be served cumulatively on another term of imprisonment, or concurrently with another term of imprisonment then being served, or about to be served, by the defendant ;

    (unless the sentences are less than 1 year but more than 3 months, in which case can order the person serve a minimum 1 month and suspend the remainder) [see ss 96(3)(a) and 96(4)]; or
  • more than four-fifths of the sentence if the person is being sentenced as an adult to a period of imprisonment of 2 years or more for a prescribed designated offence (manslaughter or cause serious harm) [see ss 96(3)(b) and 96(4)].

Also, unless exceptional circumstances exist (in which case certain limitations apply), a court may not suspend the sentence if the person is being sentenced as an adult for:

  • a serious and organised crime offence or specified offence against police; or
  • a serious sexual offence; or
  • a designated offence and, during the five year period immediately preceding the date on which the relevant offence was committed, a court has suspended a sentence of imprisonment or period of detention imposed on the defendant for a designated offence.

See further Sentencing Act 2017 (SA) ss 96(3)(c), 96(3)(d), 96(6).

Section 96(9) of the Sentencing Act 2017 (SA) prescribes the type of offences that fall into the above categories.

serious and organised crime offences include:

  • participation in a criminal organisation;
  • blackmail or abuse of public office where the offence is aggravated by committing the offence for the benefit of or in connection with a criminal organisation;
  • offences concerning witnesses and jurors;
  • offences of trafficking and manufacturing of controlled drugs; and
  • sale, supply or administration of controlled drugs or equipment to children or in school zones.

specific offences against police include :

  • attempted manslaughter and attempted murder where the victim is a police officer; and
  • causing serious harm to a police officer.

designated offences include:

  • aiding suicide;
  • unlawful threats and unlawful stalking;
  • dangerous driving to escape a police pursuit;
  • causing harm and causing serious harm;
  • shooting at police officers;
  • kidnapping;
  • robbery;
  • serious criminal trespass; and
  • assaults with intent.

Serious sexual offences include:

  • rape;
  • compelled sexual manipulation;
  • persistent sexual abuse of a child;
  • sexual exploitation of a person with a cognitive impairment;
  • Abduction;
  • Procuring sexual intercourse;
  • Incest;
  • Unlawful sexual intercourse;
  • Indecent assault;
  • Production or dissemination of child exploitation material;
  • Procuring a child to commit an indecent act

If a sentences is suspended the defendant is placed on a bond (promise) to be of good behaviour [s 96], prohibiting the defendant from possessing a firearm, any part of a firearm or ammunition and requiring the defendant submit to gunshot residue testing as may be reasonably required [see s 96(2)].

A defendant may also be directed to surrender any firearms, part of firearms or ammunition [s 101(1)] or be required to meet a number of other additional conditions, see Good behaviour bonds. If the bond is not breached, the defendant does not have to serve the sentence of imprisonment. However, if the bond is breached (for example where the defendant commits a further offence during the period of the bond) the defendant may be ordered to serve the suspended sentence [see s 114]. If the Court is satisfied that the breach is trivial, or that there are proper grounds upon which it should be excused, the Court can refrain from revoking the suspension and extend the bond, extend the time to do any community service, or otherwise revoke or vary conditions of the bond [see further s 114(3)].

If a person on probation under a suspended sentence bond complies with the bond, then, once the bond term is over, then the sentence is also completed (they can not then be sent to gaol, as they have served their sentence by complying with the bond) [s 96(8)].

Suspended sentences  :  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.