Community Sentencing

What is Community Sentencing?

When giving sentences, judges and magistrates have three available options – prison, a community sentence or a fine. The community sentence or community order, can replace custodial sentence, depending on the nature of the crime.  If a community sentence is given, it is either because a custodial sentence will not help to rehabilitate the offender, or does not suit the crime.

Community sentences allow offenders to undertake a rehabilitative programme, and work in the community while being supervised by the probation service.

What types of Community Sentences are there?

There are various kinds of community orders for adults with a range of possible requirements. These include the following:

Compulsory (unpaid) work:

Offenders will be required to work for up to 300 hours on local community projects under close supervision. This may include:

  • Cleaning litter;

  • Clearing public land;

  • Redecorating community centres and other public buildings;

  • Removing graffiti in public spaces.

Participation in specified activities:

This could include a wide range of activities, like day centre activities, education and learning, and basic skills assessment and training.

Programmes aimed at changing offending behaviour:

The offender will be required to attend a group or individual programme. A range of specifically designed programmes are available to help offenders change their pattern of behaviour. The programmes are accredited by the Home Office and follow a national core curriculum. They include:

  • One-to-One Programme:

A general offenders programme designed to change their attitudes and values that might contribute to the offender’s behaviour.

  • Enhanced Thinking Skills Programme (ETS):

A general offending behaviour programme used with a group.  The programme challenges and changes attitudes and values that might be responsible for the offender’s behaviour.

  • Community Sex Offender Group-work Programme (CSOP):

Designed for men who have been convicted of a sexual offence against a child or adult.  This is a group programme reinforced by individual work with the supervising officer.

  • Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme (IDAP):

This programme uses group-work for men to confront domestic violence and abuse. It promotes the co-operation between the agencies concerned with domestic violence:

  • Controlling Anger and Learning to Manage it (CALM)

This programme uses group-work for men to help them manage their anger and prevent them from offending when they lose their temper

  • Drink Impaired Drivers (DIDs):

A programme designed to inform offenders and change their attitudes that contribute to drink-impaired driving.

  • Offender Substance Abuse Programme (OSAP):

A programme designed to raise awareness of the link between offending behaviour and  substance misuse in order to help offenders gain the skills to stop substance misuse and therefore stop offending.

Prohibition from certain activities:

Offenders can be prevented from participating in certain activities for a specific time period. This could be any activity that the offender could get involved in that is likely to lead them to commit a crime.


The court may impose a curfew in order to reduce opportunities for criminal activity or to protect the community.

Exclusion from specific areas:

The court can direct that offenders may not enter a specific area for any period of up to two years. This could include certain streets or certain shops.

Residence requirement:

The offender can be instructed by the court to reside at a specified hostel or private address.

Attendance Centre:

The offender can be directed by the court to spend from 12 to 36 hours at an attendance centre, for a maximum of 3 hours per day. This offers a structured group environment so offenders can address their offending behaviour.

Mental health treatment:

The offender can by directed by the court to undergo treatment by a medical practitioner or psychologist with the intention of improving their mental condition (with offender’s consent.) 


The court can direct the offender to attend appointments with a manager from the Probation Service. The frequency and content of the supervision will be specified in the sentence, and can include:

  • Monitoring and reviewing patterns of behaviour.

  • Helping to increase the offender’s  motivation.

  • Providing practical support to help the offender comply with the order.

  • Support and reinforce learning.

  • Modelling of pro-social behaviour.

Drug treatment and testing:

A drug treatment requirement will provide a rehabilitation programme with the aim of reducing drug related offences. With the offender’s consent, the probation and treatment services will set out a treatment plan, including testing and the requirement of the different stages of the order.

Alcohol treatment

An alcohol treatment requirement will provide a specifically designed treatment programme with the goal of reducing dependency on alcohol. The treatment requirement can last from six months to three years.

The National Probation Service (NPS)

The community order is managed by a probation officer from the NPS who plans and co-ordinates the supervision programme. The NPS is divided into 42 regional probation areas, and is responsible for the people in their regional area. If an offender is placed on probation they must not break the rules and requirements of the community order. If they do they will be re-sentenced and could be sent to prison.

What probation officers do

Probation officers work with people and their families to reduce the chances of them re-offending. They will get the offenders to look at the reasons why they have offended and give them motivation to change. The programme will also focus on the offender accepting responsibility for their actions and gaining an awareness of the impact of their actions on others. A probation officer will:

  • Monitor the offender’s activities;
  • Help the offender deal with drug and alcohol addiction;
  • Inform  the court of any problems they see in the offender’s behaviour.

Probation hostels

As part of a residence requirement the court could require the offender to live in a probation hostel, or ‘approved premises’. There will be a high level of security, with CCTV cameras and alarms. They are staffed round the clock and residents are subject to continuous assessment.  Offenders must obey the hostel’s curfew and rules. The rules are there to keep the offender away from the people, places and activities that might lead them to re-offend.