A community order, sometimes referred to as community sentences, allow judges or magistrates to tailor a sentence to meet the needs of the offender. The sentence is served in the community under the supervision of a Probation Trust and should be considered a punishment, in that it may restrict an offender’s movements and activity, as well as encouraging attendence at activities or treatment-based interventions that are rehabilitative in nature. 

Sentencers can impose several different conditions, or ‘requirements’ on the order to enable the offender to address their offending behaviour. There are a total of twelve different requirements although an offender would not have all the requirements attached to their order. Less serious offences would generally carry only one or two whereas a more serious offence may have three or more elements to the order.

The requirements are as follows:

Supervision – by a Probation Trust. Where an offender will have to attend regular meetings with a probation officer who will undertake work with the offender to change attitudes and behaviour.

Unpaid Work/Community Payback – up to a maximum of 300 hours set work performed for the benefit of the community.

Curfew –where an offender can be ordered to stay within the confines of their home during certain hours of the day for up to six months. The curfew can be for up to 12 hours within a 24 hour period. Curfews are usually electronically monitored.

Accredited Programmes – the offender must attend a group or one-to-one programme designed to address behaviours that lead to offending, such as programmes for drink-drivers, sex offenders or those who misuse drugs.

Specified Activities – these can include reparation to victims or work on to improve their basic skills such as literacy and numeracy.

Prohibition – the offender is barred from certain activities, for example attending a football match or going to a pub, on a particular day or days for a period determined by the court.

Exclusion – where an offender can be excluded from entering certain areas for up to two years. This may include electronic monitoring.

Residence – where an offender has to live at a certain address for example approved premises such as a hostel or a private address. This is approved by the National Probation Trust.

Mental Health Treatment – this can only be imposed with the consent of the offender and is done under the direction of a doctor or psychologist.

Drug Rehabilitation – this includes testing and treatment and can also only be imposed with the consent of the offender. This is designed to reduce or eliminate the offender’s dependency on drugs.

Attendance Centre – the offender must attend a centre for between 12 and 36 hours. They may focus on developing their social skills at the same time as challenging their offending behaviour.

Alcohol Treatment – this can only be imposed with the consent of the offender and lasts up to three years. This is designed to reduce or eliminate the offender’s dependency on alcohol.

These requirements are also available to the courts when a suspended sentence is imposed upon an offender.

Scotland 

Community Payback Order

The Community Payback Order (CPO) replaces the Community Service Orders, Probation Orders and Supervised Attendance Orders.

This order is available to the courts and came into force in 2011. If you are imposed with a CPO, you may be ordered to carry out unpaid work in the community, or attend a programme to help with any behavioural or addiction problems.

There are nine requirements available to the court as part of a Community Payback Order. Each offender will be assessed to determine whether one or more of the requirements are appropriate.

The requirements are:

  • Supervision
  • Unpaid work
  • Drug treatment
  • Alcohol treatment
  • Conduct
  • Programme
  • Residential
  • Mental health
  • Compensation

When you are imposed with a CPO, you will be allocated a case manager directly from the court. You must meet with this case manager to discuss the CPO and they will outline the requirements you have been ordered to fulfil. If you have any questions or concerns you should raise them with the case manager.

Offenders on Community Payback Orders can find themselves repainting community halls, maintaining the grounds of public spaces or assisting at a local charity. Considerations will be made on whether a certain area of work is suitable for an offender. Your age, health status, child protection issues, and the nature of your offense will be taken into consideration before you are issued a CPO.

During unpaid work you will be supervised by a Community Payback Order Task Supervisor. They will be available to ensure you’re fulfilling your responsibilities and also to assist you if you experience any difficulties.

In brief:

  1. There is no minimum age for a CPO.
  2. If ordered to do unpaid work as part of their CPO, offenders can be asked to work between 20-300 hours in total.
  3. Orders usually cover a period between 6 months and 3 years.
  4. However, those on unpaid work orders will be expected to complete the work within three months.
  5. The court may decide to conduct review hearings throughout an offender’s CPO to check on progress.