Last week, the Sentencing Advisory Council (SAC) released a new report, Community Correction Orders: Third Monitoring Report (Post-Guideline Judgement), studying sentencing practices in Victoria.
The SAC found the use of community correction orders as a principal sentence increased by 38 per cent in the Magistrates Court and 15 per cent in the County and Supreme Courts over 2015.
Under a CCO, an offender is barred from re-offending or leaving Victoria but can also be required to perform unpaid community work, undertake rehabilitation, stay away from specified venues, abide by a curfew, submit to monitoring or a range of other conditions.
CCOs were introduced in 2012 but their use dramatically increased after a guideline judgement was handed down in December 2014 in the case of Boulton v The Queen.
The Boulton decision coupled with legislative changes, including the abolition of suspended sentences in September 2014, has led to a marked rise in the use of CCOs, the SAC found.
Overall, however, the SAC noted that the rate of people being sent to prison had not decreased.
Between the December quarter of 2014 and the March quarter of 2015, the percentage of offenders sentenced to imprisonment by the County and Supreme Courts declined from 68.7 per cent to 58.9 per cent.
However, by the December quarter of 2015, this trend had reversed and the percentage of offenders had climbed to 73.1 per cent.
The report also found that CCOs were increasingly being used in conjunction with imprisonment.
Between 2014 and 2015, the number of imprisonment sentences combined with CCOs increased by 100 per cent in the Magistrates Court and 370 per cent in the County and Supreme Courts.
SAC deputy chair Lisa Ward said courts were using CCOs as a substitute for discontinued suspended sentences.
"The Boulton decision by the Court of Appeal, coupled with legislative change, has resulted in sentencing courts combining more CCOs with sentences of imprisonment," she said.
"There is very little evidence of the CCO, as a sentence in its own right, being used to replace imprisonment."