This submission is made by the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service in response to the Consultation Paper prepared by the NSW Sentencing Council. HPLS is of the view that in the absence of comprehensive, flexible, well-resourced intermediate sentencing options, it is necessary to maintain suspended sentences as a sentencing option because it provides a means to keep vulnerable individuals out of the prison system. For offenders who are homeless, with a history of alcohol or drug abuse, mental illness, or chronic disability, intermediate sentencing options, such as community service orders, intensive correction orders and home detention, are not available. As a result, a suspended sentence is usually the only sentencing alternative to a full-time custodial sentence for a person who is homeless. The abolition of suspended sentences would place such disadvantaged and marginalised individuals at an even higher risk of custodial sentences.
HPLS submits that additional intermediate sentencing orders should be available for people who are homeless, have a mental illness or have drug/alcohol dependency. Such orders need to have considerable flexibility as to the amount of supervision and treatment, and need to be adaptable to the capabilities and needs of offenders, and need to be accompanied by appropriate support services. In addition, intermediate sentencing options need to have a greater emphasis on therapeutic and remedial outcomes.
HPLS submits that current provisions relating to breaches of suspended sentences operate in a manner which places people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness at a higher risk of being sentenced to a full-time custodial sentence than others in the community. HPLS submits that there is a need for an expansion of diversionary programs and sentencing options in respect of breaches of suspended sentences.