Courts lose sentencing option

PERIODIC weekend detention for criminal offenders is no longer a sentencing option available to NSW courts.

But at Lismore and other courts on the Northern Rivers the replacement legislation, known as Intensive Correction Orders (ICO), will not be available for some time.

The ICO's came on line in NSW on October 1, but a spokesman for the Minister for Corrective Services, Phil Costa, said the ICO's at this early stage wereonly available to courts in the Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle and Bathurst areas.

Their availability would be progressively rolled out across the State and were not likely to become available on the Northern Rivers for another 12 months, he said.

An ICO is described as a community-based sentence that will be administered by the Department of Corrective Services.

The order will be served by the offender in the community and offenders can be subject to a range of conditions, including 24-hour monitoring, ordered to do unpaid community service work, or take part in educational and rehabilitative activities.

The length of time before itbecomes available in the Northern Rivers region will mean the courts can either impose full-time custodial sentences, or immediately suspend them with no time to be served.

Unlike elsewhere in the State, the option of home detention has not been available in the region and periodic weekend detention, which operated for some 10 years at the Grafton remand centre, was a sentence option only available to male offenders on the Northern Rivers.

The Corrective Services spokesman said the Kenneally Gov-ernment was committed to expediting the roll-out of the ICO throughout NSW, and the new sentencing option would be available in the Grafton, Wagga Wagga and Tamworth areas after its initial roll-out in the Sydney met-ropolitan, Wollongong and Newcastle regions.

“When this happens, courts on the North Coast will be able to consider the ICO as a sentencing option for offenders in the Lismore and Grafton areas. Once fully rolled they will extend to areas of NSW where periodicdetention was previously unavailable,” the spokesman said.

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