Probation and Community Sentencing
Probation and community sentencing are closely linked to the offence that the defendant has committed. The courts will try and avoid a custodial sentence where possible as this could have a detrimental impact on the offender. The court will always seek to ensure that justice is upheld, but instead of a prison sentence, the court can hand down a community sentencing as an alternative option to prison. If you are an offender and have served a prison sentence of more than 12 months, you will automatically on your release be put under the supervision of the National Probation Service (NPS).
The Criminal Justice Act 2003 also bought into law two new offences: Community Order and Suspended Sentence Order. Both of these have an impact on probation and community sentencing. The court will usually order the offender to perform one or more ‘requirements’ as part of their sentence within the Suspended Sentence Order or the Community Order. These will usually be managed by the offender’s probation officer that have a range of leaflet giving details of each requirement.
What Does Probation Mean?Anyone that has served a prison sentence of 12 months or more will automatically on their release be assigned a probation officer. The justice system seeks to rehabilitate all offenders - the probation services is a key component in that rehabilitation. The court and the wider judicial system does not want to simply release offenders back into the community without any help and support. You can read more about the NPS on their website: www.probation.homeoffice.gov.uk. The remit of the NPS is to:
- Prevent an offender from committing more crimes
- Enforce the offender’s community sentence conditions
- Resolve any issues that resulting in the offender committing their crime in the first place
If you are given probation it is important that you comply with all the rules that have been set out by the court. The judicial system insists that any conditions it places on your probation are followed to the letter. Remember you must never:
- Attend a meeting with your probation officer drunk or under the influence of alcohol
- Miss a meeting with your probation officer
- Use threatening behaviour
If you break the conditions of your probation you will be sent back to court. The court will then make a decision whether you should be sent back to prison. It is your legal right to make a complaint about the probation service handling your case. All appeals should be made to the NPS office handling your case. If you are still not satisfied your complaint has been dealt with, you can contact the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman that will investigate your complaint as they have a legal responsibility to investigate all complaints and appeals about sentencing decisions.
What is Community Sentencing?Community sentencing has proven to be effective as it can ensure that the offender makes some form of recompense to the community that was affected by their offence. Since April 2005 a new offence called a Community Order has been available to the courts. As with all sentences that a court can hand down, if you believe a mistake has been made, you can make a formal complaint via the court that heard your case.
Examples of community sentencing that you could be ordered to carry out by the court hearing your case includes:
- Unpaid work to help your local community. This could include collecting litter, helping charities or assisting your local authority removing graffiti
- Regularly visiting a probation officer to help you improve your behaviour
- Curfews may be imposed by the court
If you are a young offender that is defined as anyone under the age of 17, the court dealing with your case could give you a number of different sentences based on the offence that you committed. The Youth Justice System handles these types of offences. You can see more details on their website: www.yjb.gov.uk/en-gb/yjs/SentencesOrdersandAgreements. Sentences such as community rehabilitation orders will mean you will be supervised by a probation officer or by someone from your local Youth Offending Team.