Judicial monitoring provides reassurance for borderline cases

By Judge Pippa Sinclair

Judge SinclairJudicial monitoring is a unique sentencing option for judges. It allows the court to actively manage and monitor compliance with a sentence.

Judicial monitoring is specifically available where a sentence of intensive supervision or home detention has been imposed. It is an additional level of oversight intended to enhance and maintain judicial confidence in community based sentences and home detention. 

It is primarily aimed at “borderline cases”, where the decision to impose either a community based option or a sentence of imprisonment is finely balanced.

The judge must be satisfied there is a risk of further offending and that the standard conditions of home detention or intensive supervision on their own would not adequately reduce that risk.  So, it is imposed when the judge considers there is a need to monitor the defendant’s compliance with their sentence and that additional monitoring would reduce the likelihood of further offending.

It is reassuring for the public to know that a defendant is being monitored while they are on sentence.

When a defendant is subject to judicial monitoring, the supervising probation officer gives a written progress report to the sentencing judge either within three months from the beginning of the sentence or when a third of the sentence has been served.

The progress reports contain information on the defendant’s progress and compliance with the sentence and any other information the probation officer considers is relevant.  The sentencing judge can also direct further progress reports at specified intervals. 

A judge can also direct the defendant to appear before them if it is desirable for the administration of the sentence or for the rehabilitation and reintegration of the defendant.  This order is usually made when a judge has identified concerns regarding the defendant.

However, there is nothing to prevent a judge requiring a defendant to appear when the sentence is being complied with and the court wishes to provide judicial support and encouragement.

The defendant normally reappears before the same judge when monitored, enabling the judge to develop an in-depth knowledge of the defendant and his or her case.  It builds a rapport between the judge and the defendant.

Often it represents the first time a person in authority has taken an active interest in the defendant and, therefore, the rapport increases the defendant’s incentive to comply with and complete their sentence.

Compliance with a sentence, for example attending and completing rehabilitative programmes benefits both the defendant and the wider community as it reduces the risk of reoffending.

“The defendant normally reappears before the same judge when monitored, enabling the judge to develop an in-depth knowledge of the defendant and his or her case”