Community sentences are robust and increasingly command the public’s confidence, not least as they can see more and more offenders in high-vis, brush and shovel in hand, in their streets.
My county colleague can always be relied on to emerge from the forest and ask the most challenging questions. He is correct that independent working projects, while not ideal, were introduced during the pandemic to allow offenders to discharge their sentence with robust and rigorous projects done at home, such as manufacturing personal protective equipment or, more recently, clothing items for Ukrainian refugees. It is our intention to reduce the proportion of sentences that can be done under home working, although for those who cannot handle a brush and a shovel there may well still be a place for it in the future—
We have heard a lot of complacency from the Government Benches on this issue. According to the Minister’s own Department, community payback offenders now carry out 75% fewer hours of unpaid work compared with five years ago. On average, 30,000 offenders get away without completing their community sentences every year, and now we hear the Government are letting criminals finish their unpaid work sentences at home. Why have they gone so soft on crime that they are letting those criminals get away with it?
It is not the case that community sentences can be completed using those hours, but I am sure the hon. Gentleman will understand that, during the pandemic, with the restrictions placed upon us, we had to find a way to allow offenders to complete their sentence in a satisfactory way. We have systems in place to make sure the jobs are done rigorously to time and, as I have said, we will be winding down that project.