If I am convicted of an offence, what might happen to me?
If you are convicted of an offence, you will be given a sentence appropriate to the crime and your personal circumstances.
Community based sentences can take the form of direct punishment such as a fine or unpaid work, or involve supervision by a criminal justice social worker. Many community based sentences are a combination of both punishment and supervision.
Changes in the Law mean that you may be sentenced differently if you committed your offence before 1st February 2011 than if you committed your offence after that date.
If you committed your offence before 1st February 2011 you will be prosecuted under old rules. Supervision is called probation, unpaid work is called community service and a supervised attendance order is available instead of a fine. These terms have been in use for many years and are familiar to many people.
However, if you committed your offence on or after 1st February 2011 you will be prosecuted under new rules. Fines remain unchanged but all other community based sentences will be called a Community Payback Order.
Each Community Payback Order will have one or more “requirements”, to find the right balance between reparation (paying back to the community for your misdeeds), rehabilitation (to change your attitudes about offending), reintegration (to help you be part of a law abiding community) and sometimes restriction (such as an evening curfew). These requirements are:
- Offender Supervision requirement
- Unpaid Work requirement
- Programme requirement
- Drug Treatment requirement
- Alcohol Treatment requirement
- Residence requirement
- Mental Health Treatment requirement
- Compensation requirement
- Conduct requirement
Custodial sentences are either short term or long term. If you receive a sentence of less than 4 years you are deemed a short term prisoner. If you can show compliance and an improvement in your attitudes and behaviour you will ordinarily be released at the half way stage – this is called being released on parole. If you do not get parole you will under normal circumstances be released after two thirds of your sentence.
If you receive a sentence of 4 years or more you are deemed a long term prisoner. The same parole/release conditions apply as above but you will normally be released under supervision or license to a criminal justice social worker. There will be strict conditions to your license but they are there to support your return to the community, encourage a law abiding lifestyle and the continuing protection of the public.
Restriction of Liberty Orders allow for the electronic monitoring or “tagging” of an offender. They are commonly used to ensure a person stays at home during evenings and night times (a curfew) but allow people to work or seek employment during the day. They are seen as an alternative to custody and can be used to assist the early release of a prisoner. Electronic tags can also be used to keep people away from a certain place such as a local pub or a particular address.