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.

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For more information on:

  • Drug treatment and testing:
  • Alcohol treatment
  • The National Probation Service (NPS)
  • What probation officers do
  • Probation hostels