Hundreds of offenders put their feet up due to COVID rules
Instead of mowing hospital lawns and digging public gardens, hundreds of convicted criminals have been able to put their feet up with the community service work program put on hold because of COVID-19.
The monumental stuff-up occurred even though lawyers reminded magistrates and judges that the scheme had been suspended during the pandemic.
But the courts have continued to sentence defendants to community service work they could not immediately carry out.
Corrective Services Minister Anthony Roberts said on Sunday it meant some offenders will never have to complete their sentences.
"Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 and the stay-at-home orders, offenders already on community service work orders were unable to complete their hours," he said.
"This is a big second chance. They should have served time, but because of COVID they haven't done it.
"My best advice to those people is that if you've got away without serving your community because of COVID I wouldn't be coming back before a magistrate or a judge.
"If they come back a second time, for a second offence, without having served their community service because of COVID, they might find themselves serving some time in Her Majesty's prisons rather mowing lawns."
Offenders are usually given 12 months to complete their community service and if they had not done so before the program was halted on March 23 and their time ran out before the program was reinstated late last month, then they can put their feet up.
Others placed on a community service order during those five months will only have to serve a proportion of their hours on a pro rata basis, the government confirmed.
"Community service orders are not an easy option, they are meant to be taken very seriously," victims' advocate Howard Brown said.
"The scheme was working quite well because it was keeping them busy and most of the work was directed towards their offending behaviour so them not doing the community service aspect gives them free time and as my parish priest used to day, an idle mind is the devil's playground."
Among those sentenced to CSOs during the shutdown is former Wallabies player Brett Sheehan, 40, who was ordered in April by Manly Local Court to complete 100 hours of community service as part of a one-year bond imposed after he choked his wife Laura Sheehan at their Sydney home.
In March, businessman Simon Lee, 46, from Rose Bay, pleaded guilty to mid-range drink-driving at Waverley Local Court and was ordered to complete 100 hours of community service work as part of his sentence.
Originally published as Hundreds of offenders put their feet up due to COVID rules