In the UK, community orders are often used to punish first-time offenders who commit serious crimes. These types of sentences involve individuals carrying out specific tasks and requirements in the community, opposed to serving time in prison.
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When can a community order be used as a punishment?
A community order can only be issued by the Judge/Magistrates court when the crime committed is severe enough to carry the potential of a custodial sentence. Typically, courts will issue individuals with community orders for the following offences:
- Criminal Damage
- Common Assault
- Benefit Fraud
There are certain exceptions where it cannot use as a punishment for individuals. For example, cases that involve murder or rape are forward directly to the High Court. Alternatively, if an offence is not serious enough to be considered as a community order offence the individual will receive a lower severity sentence.
What types of punishments are included in a community order?
If you are sentenced to a community order, you will be given specific requirements that you will need to follow. For less severe offences, you may be given just one condition. However, for more severe types of crimes, the court may give you multiple.
The most common requirements for community orders include:
- Firstly, unpaid labour (40-300 hours over a maximum 12 month period)
- Secondly, a curfew requirement (2-16 hours per day over a maximum 12 month period)
- Thirdly, an electronic monitoring tag
Typically, all community orders will have supervision as one of the requirements. This involves the individual meeting with an offender manager who provides advice and support to stop the individual from committing offences in the future. Furthermore, an offence manager will ensure that the individual is carrying out the requirements outlined in the order.
What requirements might a community order include?
The severity of a crime will determine the conditions of your community order. Typically, community order offences are split into three categories, which include:
Offences deemed by the court to only just cross into the community order threshold are considered low severity. Low severity community order offences will most commonly include one requirement, and the court may reduce the length if multiple conditions are added. Furthermore, low severity orders often include one of the following requirements:
- 40-80 hours of unpaid work.
- Prohibited activity requirement.
- Curfew requirement.
Offences that are categorised as medium level community order offences are crimes that are severe. Typically, medium offences will have multiple requirements set out in the order. An example of a crime that would qualify as a medium level community order could be common assault. Furthermore, a medium severity common order offence will include one or more of the following requirements:
- 80-150 hours of unpaid work
- Exclusion requirement
- Curfew requirement
- Rehabilitative programme
- Prohibited activity requirement
Offences that fall just shy of the custody threshold are considered high severity community order offences. For these types of offences, individuals will receive the highest severity community order punishment. Typically, a high severity community order offence will include multiple of the following requirements:
- 150-300 hours unpaid work
- Curfew Requirement
- Electronic monitoring tag
- Foreign travel prohibition requirement (up to a maximum of 12 months)
- Drug/alcohol rehabilitation
What happens if you breach a community order offence?
When a person fails to meet the requirements of a community order without a reasonable excuse, they will receive a warning. The warning will state that any further breach of the order within the next 12 months will mean the case will be brought back to court.
If the individual fails to comply they are brought back to court, and will be asked if they admit to the breach. If the individual accepts the breach, or it is proved against him, the court will have several options. These options could include:
- The court imposing a harsher sentence on the individual. For example, if an individual had received an unpaid work requirement of 100 hours, they could extend it to be 250 hours. Furthermore, if the court had not previously imposed this as a requirement, they could add this to the individuals order.
- The court may decide that it is fit to impose a fine on the individual. The amount of money an individual is fined is completely dependent on the seriousness of an offence. Furthermore, if the court deems that there are mitigating factors involved with the matter it may lead to the individual’s fine being reduced.
- In the case where the court decides to resentence the individual, they have the capability to impose a 6 month custodial sentence. In addition to this, they can combine a custodial sentence with a fine for serious breaches.
Typically, community orders only last for 3 years. However, if there has been a breach, the court can add up to 6 months to the community order, regardless of whether it extends over the 3 year period.
What happens if I am charged with another offence whilst completing my public order offence?
If you are to commit another criminal offence whilst completing a community order offence, it does not amount to a breach. However, when the court convicts you for the new offence, the punishment may interfere with the community order and the requirements attached. For example, if the new offence is so severe, it amounts to imprisonment, a defendant would not be able to continue with the community order. Typically, if this was to happen the individual would need to be resentenced by the court.
How long does a community order appear on the Polices National Computer?
If you have been charged with a community order offence, it will remain on the Polices’ National Computer indefinitely. Furthermore, the charge can be used in future criminal proceedings even if the sentence has become spent.
How long does a community order offence stay on my criminal record?
As part of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, after the individual completes the requirements set out in the order, they will have to wait one year for the sentence to become spent. Furthermore, once the eviction becomes spent then it will remove the criminal record from a standard DBS check.
Unfortunately, convictions will always appear on enhanced DBS checks, unless they have been protected or filtered. Furthermore, you will not be able to appeal to have these removed.
How can a lawyer help?
It is essential to seek legal assistance when a community order offence. This is because there are important tactical and financial considerations that can be used within these types of cases. Furthermore, a lawyer can provide you with expert court representation, giving you the best chance of success with your case.
If you are facing criminal prosecution, you’ll need a criminal defence lawyer on your side.
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