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Taylor, S; Mair, G; Cross, N
Publisher: Centre for Crime & Justice Studies
Languages: English
Types: Other
Subjects: HV
This is the first in a series of reports as part of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies Community Sentences project. The project was initially established to investigate and monitor the new Community Order introduced in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 by providing good quality, objective information about the way it was used and managed during a period of great change following the creation of the National Offender Management Service(NOMS). However, as this report demonstrates, soon after the implementation of the Community Order on 4 April 2005, it became clear that the new Suspended Sentence Order, sometimes referred to as ‘custody minus’, was playing a significant role in sentencing and impacting directly on the work of the Probation Service. The project’s remit was therefore expanded to examine the Suspended Sentence Order. These new sentences raise significant issues for the courts, the Probation Service, the wider penal system, and, of course, the offenders who are sentenced. For the courts, they represent a new approach to sentencing that involves delivering a preliminary indication of seriousness prior to the preparation of a pre-sentence report and juggling with a range of possible requirements that can make up either order. For the Probation Service, the arrival of the Community Order and the Suspended Sentence Order, although legally the latter is a custodial sentence, signals the end of operating a variety of different sentences and facing up to the challenges of a single order with a range of possible requirements. With regard to the wider criminal justice system, both sentences – and the Suspended Sentence Order in particular – are part of an attempt to narrow the custody/community divide alongside the creation of a combined prison and probation structure under the National Offender Management Service.1 It is also worth noting that they are both intended to affect the custody rate and to address the issue of uptariffing2 highlighted by the Carter report (Carter 2003) and accepted by the government (Home Office 2004a). For offenders, there is the challenge of understanding and reacting positively to the new sentences which are made up of separate parts, and which may appear fragmented and therefore operate less effectively than they might. The introduction of new court sentences is always a significant event (cf. the Community Service Order, the Combination Order, the Drug Treatment and Testing Order), but the arrival of the Community Order and the Suspended Sentence Order signals a radical and profound change with considerable implications. This report begins by exploring the background to the new sentences and their origins. It looks at the aims of the sentences and the possible problems that may emerge. It presents an analysis of the available sentencing data in order to examine how the sentences are being used (it should be noted that it is still early days for the new sentences) and examines probation officer views about the orders. Finally, it draws conclusions about the extent of the changes that have occurred so far as a result of the introduction of the new orders.
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