Community Orders: Suspended Sentences

Ministry of Justice written question – answered at on 25 March 2024.

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Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many hours of unpaid work handed down as part of suspended sentences were cancelled as a result of not having been completed within 12 months of the sentence being handed down, in each of the last five years.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The disruption caused by the pandemic added to a backlog of Unpaid Work hours. The Government is investing an additional £93m in Community Payback over three years. This will allow us to increase delivery of Community Payback back to pre-covid levels of delivery.

We have launched a national campaign to recruit more than 500 additional Community Payback staff to bolster resources in every probation region and new staff are arriving in post. The additional staffing will enable us to boost delivery of Community Payback to pre-covid levels.

There will be a particular focus on delivering more outdoor projects that improve local areas, sustainability focussed and allow the public to see justice being done.

Suspended Sentence Orders cannot legally be extended beyond the length of the operational period of the order which is set by the judiciary. A Suspended Sentence Order ceases the moment the operational period expires, regardless of any outstanding requirements such as unpaid work. Robust processes have been developed to ensure unpaid work requirements are completed in a timely manner, including prompt enforcement action where required.

It is important to note that these hours have not been “cancelled” but due to the legal limitations of a Suspended Sentence Order, the Probation Service is unable to apply for an extension in order to work hours once the operational period has expired.

Calendar Year

Hours remaining on Expired Suspended Sentence Orders











Data as at 27/02/2024

The expired Suspended Sentence Orders detailed here should be viewed in context of the total completed hours delivered as detailed in PQ 171423.

By way of comparison, in 2023, 279,640 hours remained on expired Suspended Sentence Orders, while during the twelve months 01/04/2022 to 31/03/2023, over 4.7 million hours of Unpaid Work were delivered.

A number of these expired orders will be as a result of persons being remanded in custody or otherwise unable to complete their hours within the operational period. Additionally, others may have expired due to delays in enforcement, particularly as a result of Covid.

Data are sourced from nDelius and while these data have been assured as much as practical, as with any large administrative dataset, the data should not be assumed to be accurate to the last value presented.

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