As of December 2013, community sentences will be forced to include an element of punishment as the radical overhaul of sentencing continues, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced yesterday. In a bid to increase public confidence in community sentences, adult sentences will now have to include some form of punishment.
In 2012, more than 130,000 community sentences were given by the Courts. Around one-third of community sentences contain no element of punishment but as of 11th December, this will change. Most sentences will contain a punitive element such as a fine, unpaid work, curfew or exclusion zones.
Chris Grayling commented:
“From my first day in this job I have been clear that punishment must mean punishment. A community sentence shouldn’t just consist of a meeting with an offender manager, prisoners shouldn’t spend their time in prison watching satellite television and the worst offenders should get the very toughest sentences.
“Step by step we’re overhauling sentencing and sending a clear message to criminals that crime doesn’t pay. We’re on the side of people who work hard and want to get on and my message is this – if you break the law you will be punished.
“Currently, only around two-thirds of community orders contain punishment such as a curfew or unpaid work. Under the reforms that will come into effect this month we expect this to rise significantly. In very exceptional circumstances, judges will have the power not to include the element of punishment.
“Research suggests the inclusion of a punitive requirement alongside supervision in community sentences, can be more effective in reducing re-offending than supervision alone.”
This is one of the latest steps in a series of sentencing reforms ranging from restrictions on the use of cautions for serious offences to the introduction of a mandatory life sentence for the most serious repeat offenders.
In 2012, a range of tougher sentences and new offences, introduced in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, came into effect including:
- ‘Two-strikes’ – mandatory life sentence for anyone convicted of a second serious sexual or violent offence
- Extended Determinate Sentence – where offenders spend at least two-thirds of their sentence behind bars and extra time being monitored in the community
- Aggravated knife possession – new offences of using a knife to threaten and endanger someone in a public place or school
- Clampdown on dangerous drivers – new offence of causing serious injury by dangerous driving which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison