Press release

Clarke: Reform of community sentences and probation services

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Radical proposals to strengthen community sentences and improve the Probation Service were set out today by Justice Secretary Ken Clarke.

Radical proposals to strengthen community sentences and improve the Probation Service were set out today by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke. 

The plans will ensure community sentences are a tough and credible punishment that better tackles reoffending, supported by modernising reforms to probation to cut crime. We aim to make better use of the innovation, capacity and diversity of voluntary private providers, in partnership with the Probation Service.
The two consultations propose:

Community Sentences:

  • Intensive Community Punishment sentence - a rigorous new community order for criminals who deserve a serious penalty and who can be dealt with sensibly in the community. It will include a package of punishments including unpaid work, significant restrictions on liberty through a curfew with tagging, exclusion from certain areas, a foreign travel ban, a fine and a driving ban, where appropriate.

  • At least one form of punishment element in every sentence - for the first time every community sentence will include one form of punishment from the list outlined above.
  • Greater and more creative use of electronic monitoring - using technology, such as GPS, to monitor offenders’ compliance with their sentence and to track their movements.

  • Seizing criminal assets - a new power for bailiffs to seize criminals’ possessions.
  • Alcohol bans - new power to trial a scheme to ban offenders convicted of alcohol-fuelled crime from drinking as part of a community sentence or suspended sentences using new monitoring technology.


  • The public sector Probation Service will retain control of the management of offenders who pose the highest risk, including the most serious and violent criminals to protect the public.  They will continue to provide advice to court, and take public interest decisions over all offenders including initially assessing levels of risk, resolving action where sentences are breached, and decisions on the recalls of offenders to prison.

  • Greater effectiveness and quality in probation services - extending competition, including for lower-risk offenders, to ensure that probation services are delivered by those best equipped to tackle crime and reoffending, and encourage the most effective rehabilitation measures, whether they are in the public, voluntary, or private sectors. Where possible we will pay providers by measured results.

  • Devolving accountability and responsibility - giving Probation Trusts control of local budgets, including electronic monitoring of curfews, so they can deliver programmes targeted at local needs and reducing reoffending.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said:

‘All too often community sentences are seen as an easy option, sometimes just a weekly meeting with a probation officer or a few hours of unpaid work in an entire week. This is inadequate.

‘That is why we are overhauling community sentences to ensure they are tough, credible and robust. Criminals must be punished for their crimes, they must pay back to communities and victims for their crimes and they must be reformed. If we can get criminals to return to a law abiding way of life, we stop them committing more crime against more victims.

‘That is why we are modernising the Probation Service so that we bring in more of the energy and innovation of the widest possible range of providers to bear on the battle against reoffending and crime. Good sentencing is a combination of firm punishment and effective reform of the offender.’

The community sentencing consultation also includes proposals to improve the use of fines by getting better, more accurate information about offenders’ means, to empower offender managers to deal more swiftly with minor breaches and to encourage greater use of restorative justice and more effective use of compensation orders, which are paid to victims of crime.

Extending the partnership between the Probation Service and the private, public and voluntary sectors, and giving Probation Trusts more control of local budgets of offender management services like electronic monitoring of curfews and joint commissioning for drug and mental health treatment, will help cut crime by driving down reoffending. This will better support the Government’s priorities for wider reform of the justice sector, including the development of payment by measured results in cutting reoffending.

The proposals set out in two consultations build on the reforms already being taken forward in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, which include extending the maximum length of a curfew from 12 hours a day to 16 hours a day, from six months to 12 months and introducing foreign travel bans. The proposals in the probation consultation are a significant extension of the policy launched by the Offender Management Act 2007 and will speed up the use of the legal powers in that Act.

Notes to Editors

  1. View the consultation documents:
    Punishment and Reform: effective community sentences
    [Punishment and reform: effective probation services

]( 2. Proposed reforms to community sentences will be supported by reforms to the Probation Service under the Offender Management Act 2007.

  1. Offenders discharged from immediate custodial sentences of less than 12 months re-offended at a higher rate than offenders receiving a community order. The difference ranged from 5.9 and 8.3 percentage points for the years 2005 to 2008. In 2008, this difference was 8.3 percentage points.

  2. In 2010, the courts handed down 118,696 community orders:

* 11 per cent contained only a 'supervision' (meeting with a probation officer) requirement
* 33 per cent contained only unpaid work (community payback).  
  1. For more information contact the Ministry of Justice press office on 020 3334 3536.