An outline of the Community Service Order

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109528 Formerly known as a Community Service Order introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 1972, a community punishment order[1] is now regulated by the Powers of Criminal Courts Act of 2000. The aims of a community punishment order is solely to reform the offender whilst he/she remains in the community, allow an opportunity to reflect on the criminal act for which s/he has been sentenced, the order is a method of rehabilitation preventing the offender from falling into a life of criminal activity and is also reparative to the public (particularly the victim).[2] The order, defined by s.163 of the PCC (2000) requires the convicted offender to spend time on unpaid work for the benefit of the community for a period between 40 to 240 hours. The offender is supervised whilst undertaking this work by a member of the youth offending team, a social worker, or a member of the probation service. As outlined in s46 of the PCC(S) Act (2000), the minimum age for a young offender to be sentenced to a community punishment order is 16. It is an alternative to a custodial sentence for the juvenile who having committed the offence, and found guilty of it, would otherwise be sent to a young offender’s institution. For those under the age of 18, the Youth Justice Board would be responsible for locating secure accommodation for the committed juvenile. The other criteria for this sentence is that the court is satisfied by pre-sentence reports of the offender’s ability and suitability to carry out this form of punishment and also – there is somewhere suitable and a type of unpaid work available for the punishment to be carried out.[3] The Youth Justice Board was created by the Government in the provisions set out in the Crime and Disorder Act of 1998. With no specific body responsible in dealing with juvenile crime, the Government set out to create a Youth Justice Board responsible for both the operation and the provision of youth justice services.[4] The Board’s primary aim as set out in s.37(1) of the CDA was to “..prevent offending by children and young persons…”[5] When sentencing a young offender, consideration of the young person’s welfare needs (as outlined in s44 of the Children and Young Person’s Act 1933) will be paramount but other considerations such as protecting the public from further harm, reforming the offender from committing further acts of crime and allowing the public (including the victim) to have confidence in the criminal justice system will also be taken into account.[6] The youth court will not recommend a community punishment order unless it can be certain that this is the right path for the young offender to reintegrate himself into the community and is convinced that a custodial sentence would only seek to destroy this reintegration. The court must also be sure that the young offender will be able to carry out the punishment of unpaid work, for it is not an easy option as commonly quoted by young people and the public itself.

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