What is a ‘community sentence’?
A ‘community sentence’ is a punishment handed down by the courts, which has three main objectives:
1. to punish the offender
2. to change the offender’s behaviour to prevent repeat offending (‘recidivism’), which may involve the use of rehabilitation programmes, such as for drug addiction or alcoholism
3. to enable the offender to make amends to the victim of their crime (or local community).
What types of community sentences are at the courts’ disposal?
Courts can select different elements to form a community order, which is specifically tailored to match the needs of the individual offender or the crime they committed.
Community orders can include one or more of the following requirements:
The offender is required to attend appointments with a member of the Probation Service and perform work to change their attitude and behaviour.
The offender must complete a minimum of 40 hours and a maximum of 300 hours of work in the community (known as ‘community payback’).
Offending behaviour programmes
The offender must participate in individual or group programmes designed to challenge the underlying causes of offending behaviour, such as drug or alcohol abuse.
The offender must:
- spend a minimum of six months having treatment to reduce or remove dependency on drugs
- be tested regularly for drug use.
The offender must spend at least six months receiving treatment for alcohol dependency.
The offender must stay at a certain place for specific periods of time (between two and 12 hours in any one day) for up to six months.
Curfews usually involve the offender’s movements being monitored by an electronic tag.
Participation in any specified activities
The offender must attend a day centre for up to a maximum of 60 days. Activities include education, basic skills assessment and ‘victim reparations’ (compensation for an abuse or injury).
Prohibition from certain activities
The offender must abstain from certain activities (such as football matches) on a certain day or during a period of up to three years.
The offender must not enter a specific place for up to two years. Like curfews, exclusions are normally monitored via an electronic tag.
The offender must live at a specific address, such as a probation hostel.
Mental health treatment
The offender must receive treatment by a specialist doctor or other mental health professional.
Eighteen to 24-year-old offenders must go to an attendance centre for 12 to 36 hours with a maximum of three hours per session and one attendance daily.
Breach of a community order
If the offender breaches a community order, they can be returned to court to face further sentencing.