In a move to restore public confidence, adult community sentences will now have to include some form of punishment, such as a fine, unpaid work, curfew or exclusion from certain areas. The new measures will mean more offenders could be forced to undertake activities such as cleaning up graffiti, clearing litter and helping to rejuvenate their communities.
Currently only around two-thirds of community orders contain a punitive requirement, such as a curfew or community payback. Under the reforms announced today that will rise significantly to almost all adult community sentences.
The inclusion of a punitive requirement in community sentences, alongside supervision, has also been shown to be more effective in reducing reoffending than supervision alone, according to new research also published today by the Ministry of Justice.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:
“We’re today putting punishment back into community sentencing. This is about sending a clear message to offenders and the public that if you commit a crime, you can expect to be punished properly. Community sentences are not a soft option any more.
“Alongside this, we are introducing a raft of other measures to make community sentences much more effective. We will use the latest GPS technology to track offenders’ movements, and are giving the courts new powers to set fines that hit offenders in their pockets and provide proper compensation to victims.”
Alongside the punitive element, community sentences will be reformed to:
- Make use of new technology to track offenders during their sentence to protect the public and help prevent criminals committing further offences
- Make clear that courts can take into account criminals’ belongings as well as their income when setting financial penalties. We will also review whether existing court powers to seize property (including items of significant value) in lieu of unpaid financial penalties give the courts the tools they need, or whether further powers are required.
- Give the courts access to benefits and tax information from Department of Work and Pensions and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, so financial penalties can be set at level that will bite on offenders and be more effectively enforced.
- Remove the £5,000 cap on compensation orders in the magistrates’ courts
- Give courts powers to defer sentencing so that restorative justice can take place between victims and offenders, to encourage criminals to face up to the consequences of their actions.
The announcement follows a wide-ranging consultation earlier this year which looked at ways to strengthen community sentences.
The proposals build on the reforms already being taken forward in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, which include extending the maximum length of a curfew from 12 hours a day to 16 hours a day, its maximum duration from six months to 12 months and introducing foreign travel bans.
Notes to editors
- Consultations on Punishment and Reform: effective community sentences
- Reforms to community sentences will be taken forward via amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill which is currently in Lords Committee.
- Research paper: Effectiveness of different community order requirements for offenders who received an OASys assessment