Community Orders are sentences imposed by the criminal courts that are managed within the community. There are many possible forms of Community Order, some designed to act as a punishment while others are intended to help rehabilitate an offender so they avoid committing crimes in the future.
Please note that Community Orders only apply to adult offenders. For young offenders under the age of 18, please read our page on Youth Rehabilitation Orders.
A Court can impose a Community Order for any criminal offence that carries a potential prison sentence. This means that for offences such as disorderly conduct (s.5 of the Public Order Act) which is not an imprisonable offence, the Court cannot impose a Community Order and is limited to a financial penalty.
A Community Order will last for a specified period, and involve one or more requirements. It is the requirements that specify what the defendant must actually do during the life of the Order, and these can include:
- Unpaid work (also known as Community Service or Community Payback),
- A Curfew (which can be electronically monitored, or “tagged”)
- Supervision appointments with the local Probation Service
- Drug Rehabilitation
- Alcohol Treatment
- Programme Requirements, such as courses designed for people convicted of domestic violence offences
The precise requirements of a Community Order should be based on the recommendations of the Probation Service in a pre-sentence report. This report is produced to help the Court identify whether an offender has specific problems or difficulties that make them more likely to commit offences. The aim is that by addressing those problems, that offender is less likely to commit similar crimes again.
Sometimes there are no background reasons for an offence, and there is nothing the Probation Service can recommend to help rehabilitate an offender. In these situations, the Court will consider whether a specific punishment would be appropriate, or if a discharge is more suitable. Punishments are usually in the form of unpaid work under the supervision of the Probation Service, or a curfew which may be monitored by companies such as Serco of G4S.
If an offender does not comply with the terms of a Community Order, for example by not attending appointments without a good reason, they may be taken to Court for breach proceedings. Please see the full page on Breach of Court Orders for more information on this issue.
If you, or someone you know, are facing criminal proceedings and want to know more about whether you may receive a Community Order, contact us and we can give you more specific information. We may even be able to recommend a specialist criminal defence barrister or solicitor who can advise you and represent you at Court.