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Community sentences to be investigated by Lords Committee

Friday 5 May 2023

The House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee is today inviting written contributions to its new inquiry into community sentences.

The committee is considering practical aspects related to the use and delivery of community sentences, with an intention to focus on community orders specifically. The inquiry will assess trends in the use of community sentences (downwards or otherwise) and will identify barriers to their use as well as best practices in their delivery. It seeks to understand the range of activities available across England and Wales and to assess the extent and impact of local disparities in the availability of such activities. 

Topics the committee is seeking evidence on include:   

  • How have the numbers of community orders handed down to offenders evolved over time? Why, and with what consequences? 
  • What are the attitudes of sentencers towards community sentences? How have these attitudes evolved over time and what shapes them? 
  • What are the main obstacles to the effective delivery of community sentences? What are the best practices for the delivery of community sentences? 
  • How effective is cooperation between the Probation Service, on one hand, and the NHS and private or third-sector organisations, on the other? 
  • How effective are community sentences at reducing recidivism? 
  • What are the attitudes of the public, in general, and victims, in particular, towards community sentences? 

Baroness Hamwee, Chair of the Justice and Home Affairs Committee said:  

“Community sentences are an option for sentencers in certain circumstances but have been little scrutinised. The Committee is interested in how they are regarded, their practical availability, and their success. 

“The Committee is conducting an inquiry into this important area of our criminal justice system. We are interested to hear about the experiences and opinions of the various actors of the system encountering community sentences. This includes, among others, offenders, ex-offenders, victims, sentencers, probation officers, and private or third-sector organisations involved in the delivery of community sentences.  

“We welcome individuals from all backgrounds who have an interest in this inquiry as well as organisations in the criminal justice sector to come forward and submit evidence. Having a range of different perspectives means that the committee will be better informed to scrutinise this topic and make effective recommendations to the Government.” 

The committee invites interested individuals and organisations to submit written evidence by Thursday 15 June. The full call for evidence and further information is available on the committee’s website. 

On Tuesday 9 May the committee will be holding its first oral evidence session for the inquiry with Mr Justin Russell, HM Chief Inspector of Probation. The session will focus on the performance of the Probation Service and the challenges it faces in the delivery of community sentences.  

Possible questions include: 

  • What are the best practices in the delivery of community sentences? 

  • What are the main obstacles to the successful delivery of community sentences by the Probation Service and its partners? 

  • Is the Probation Service making the most of partnerships with the voluntary sector? 

  • How much do probation activities and services differ from one geographical area to the other, especially those provided by the partners of the Probation Service? 

  • Ministry of Justice statistics show that nearly a third of unpaid community work imposed on offenders was left uncompleted last year. Why? 

  • How do offenders experience community sentences? Do different cohorts of offenders experience them differently? 

The session can be followed live from 10:30am on Parliament TV.    

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