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Effective Community Sentences (Consultation Response)

Volume 551: debated on Tuesday 23 October 2012

I am today publishing the Government’s response to its consultation “Punishment and Reform: Effective Community Sentences”, which began on 27 March and ended on 22 June 2012.

While community sentences can be effective in tackling the causes of reoffending, they do not always inspire public confidence. Some community orders do not contain an element that the public would consider demanding or punitive. The average length of a community order has fallen in recent years, and the percentage of successfully completed orders is also still too low. There is also scope for community sentences to do more to repair the harm that crimes cause to victims and communities.

That is why the Government set out a package of proposals to increase public confidence that community orders provide a proper sanction for criminal behaviour, while also reducing reoffending and ensuring a better deal for victims. The consultation received nearly 250 written responses. The response I am publishing today summarises the responses we received and sets out the policies we will now take forward. The Government will be tabling amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill to deliver a number of the reforms.

The reforms include:

Requiring courts to include a punitive element in every community sentence, unless there are exceptional circumstances;

Making use of new technology, subject to appropriate safeguards, to track offenders during their sentence to protect the public and help prevent criminals committing further offences;

Working with the courts, judiciary and probation trusts to explore improvements in operational procedures for dealing with breaches of community orders, so that offenders are aware of the consequences of breach and face swift sanctions if they do so.

Expanding courts’ powers to defer sentencing so that restorative justice can take place pre-sentence between victims and offenders. This will form part of the Government’s wider strategy to develop a coherent vision of how restorative justice should apply across all stages of the justice process: including how we build local capacity within available funding, and how we ensure a consistently high quality of delivery through accreditation and training standards;

Making clear that courts can take into account criminals’ assets as well as their income when setting financial penalties;

Giving the courts access to benefits and tax information from the Department of Work and Pensions and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs when setting and enforcing financial penalties;

Removing the current £5,000 limit on compensation orders in the magistrates’ courts.

Copies of the Government response document will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. Both the Government response and associated documents will also be available online at: