Who is given a community order?
A community order is given to an offender who has committed and been convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, a crime that is serious enough to justify a sentence in the community but not so serious to merit a prison sentence. Community orders are often given for crimes such as:
- Burglary, theft and criminal damage
- Benefit fraud
- Some drug related offences
- Public Order offences
The order is carried out in the community as reparation for the crime, usually under supervision. Community orders can last anywhere between six months and three years and there is no minimum age for a community sentence.
An offender is sometimes likely to receive a community order if they suffer from a mental health condition which impacted their behaviour, leading them to commit the offence or affecting them during that period of time but only where the offence warrants treatment and does not pass the custody threshold.
Another reason an offender may receive a community sentence is because the court thinks that they will be less likely to offend again than if they were given a prison sentence. For this reason, the chances of receiving a community order are much lower if they have already been convicted of one or more previous crimes and if they do receive one it is likely that it will be at a higher level than the first.
There is an increasing acceptance amongst the courts, and in terms of thinking generally, that short prison sentences do not achieve very much and that there is more chance of rehabilitation and more effective punishment available for offenders to be dealt with in the community.
Community order requirements: what are they?
Community order requirements determine the terms of the community sentence the offender receives. These include:
- Supervision – the offender has regular sessions with an offender manager to help them stop offending
- Community payback – the offender completes between 20 and 300 hours of unpaid work within the community
- Attendance centre – this is for offenders under 25 years of age; they must spend a set number of hours at an attendance centre
- Programme – the offender completes a course that tackles their criminal behaviours, such as the dangers of drink driving offences
- Rehabilitation – the offender undergoes treatment for their drug and/or alcohol addition
- Mental health treatment – the offender receives treatment for their psychological issues
- Residence – the court determines where the offender must live
- Curfew – the area in which the offender can go is restricted; this may be enforced with electronic monitoring
- Exclusion – the offender is banned from a specific area, such as a victim’s home or the area in which they committed the crime
- Prohibited activities – the offender is not allowed to do certain things that pertain to their crime, such as entering a place that serves alcohol
- Specified activities – this can mean anything from providing reparation to victims to working on skills and employability
Community order requirements depend on the severity of the offence itself. There are three degrees of severity:
- High level community order
- Medium level community order
- Low level community order
A low level community order means that the offender must generally complete at least one community order requirement. A high level community order means that they must often complete at least two – in practice, it is usually more. The more serious the offence the greater the level of Community Order that would be imposed, often this is reflected in the length of the order, ranging from 6 months up to 3 years. Where “unpaid work” is imposed as a requirement for example, the Court can impose a range from 60 up to 300 hours of work.
If the offender commits another crime during the community order, generally it is revoked and they are re-sentenced both for the new crime and the one that they were given a community sentence for.
What to do before you receive a community order?
If you think that you may be convicted of an offence that may lead to a community order, we advise you to seek expert legal advice on the matter as soon as you can. It is vital to secure representation to ensure that any Order does not impose too many requirements of that the requirements aren’t to long or onerous.
At Lawtons our team of professional solicitors are highly experienced in defending the most sensitive cases. We will work supportively with you during your case to ensure that you receive the best possible outcome.
Get in touch and we will discuss the individual circumstances of your case and tell you how we can help.