This information responds to a number of queries we’ve started receiving about serving sentences in the community. This isn’t a core area that Unlock can provide advice on, but we thought it would be helpful to explain the changes that took place in early 2015, and to outline how these might have an impact on people with convictions serving their sentence in the community.
Why is this important?
On 1st February 2015, the Offender Rehabilitation Act (ORA) came into force. The Act provides that all those released from short prison sentences will now first be subject to a standard licence period for the remainder of their prison sentence to be served in the community, and then be subject to an additional supervision period.
The Government estimates that some 50,000 individuals will ‘benefit’ from this additional support and that it will help to tackle high reoffending rates.
The new legislation applies to individuals:-
- Whose offence was committed on or after the 1st February 2015
- Who were sentenced to a prison term of more than 1 day
- Who will be 18 years or over when released
How will the changes affect individuals serving prison sentences?
Reduction of unconditional releases
Previously, adults serving prison sentences of less than 12 months were released unconditionally after one half of their sentence had been served.
Under the ORA, adults serving prison sentences of less than 12 months, for an offence committed after 1 February 2015, will be released on licence after serving one half of their sentence in prison and will serve the remaining period in the community.
Introduction of a new supervision period for 12 months after release
The ORA also introduced a new period of post sentence supervision for anybody sentenced to less than 2 years in prison.
Those sentenced to less than 2 years and released on licence (as outlined above), will be subject to an additional period of supervision (for the purposes of rehabilitation), once their licence period comes to an end. The licence and supervision period will together add up to 12 months.
Depending on the length of the prison sentence, the length of the supervision period can vary significantly.
Person A is sentenced to two months in prison. He serves one month in prison, one month on licence and received an additional 11 months post sentence supervision to make a total of 12 months.
Person B is sentenced to 18 months in prison. He serves 9 months of this sentence in prison and is then released to serve the remaining 9 months in the community on license. In addition, after his 18 month sentence comes to an end, he receives a further 3 months supervision in the community.
Person C has served 6 months on remand. At trial, he is sentenced to 6 months in prison. He is released immediately, and then receives a further 12 months supervision.
Are there any exceptions?
Yes, these include:-
- Those sentenced to 1 day and who are therefore not taken into prison, for example, fine defaulters
- Those aged under 18 on the last day of their prison sentence
- Those who committed the offence before 1st February 2015.
What do supervision requirements include?
- A requirement to be of good behaviour and not to behave in a way which undermines the purpose of the supervision period
- A requirement not to commit any further offence
- A requirement to keep in touch with the supervisor in accordance with the instructions of the supervisor
- A requirement to reside permanently at an address approved by the supervisor and to obtain the prior permission of the supervisor for any stay of one or more nights at a different address
- A requirement not to undertake work, or a particular type of work, unless it is approved by the supervisor and to notify the supervisor in advance of any proposal to undertake work or a particular type of work
- A requirement not to travel outside the British Islands, except with prior permission of the supervisor or in order to comply with a legal obligation
- A requirement to participate in activities in accordance with any instructions given by a supervisor
- A drug testing requirement (for individuals with problematic drug use)
- A drug appointment requirement (for individuals with problematic drug use)
What happens if I breach a requirement?
Breaches during the standard licence period are dealt with by the National Probation Service who have the discretion to consider the following courses of action:-
- Issuing a warning to the individual
- Asking the Prison Governor for a variation in licence conditions (for example by adding a curfew or imposing electronic monitoring)
- Recalling an individual to prison
Anybody who breaches the requirements of the new supervision period will be taken back to court. The court will then have the power to impose the following sanctions:-
- A fine
- Unpaid work
- A curfew
- A return to prison
Those being returned to prison will generally be recalled for an automatic period of 14 days (as opposed to 28 days for those with longer sentences) but, where there is assessed to be a risk of serious harm to the public, individuals can be recalled until the end of their sentence.
If the breach constitutes a criminal offence which leads to another conviction, a further sentence will be given.
Who is responsible for supervision?
The Offender Rehabilitation Act accompanied the new Transforming Rehabilitation Programme which saw 35 Probation Trusts abolished and replaced by a National Probation Service (NPS) and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC’s). These CRC’s manage approximately 70% of the supervision for less serious individuals while the remaining 30% (considered more serious) are managed by the NPS. The assessment of risk (i.e. low, medium or high) is made by the NPS.
Supervision for individuals serving community orders or suspended sentences
For individuals serving a community order or suspended sentence, the Offender Rehabilitation Act has created a new Rehabilitative Activity Requirement which replaces the previous ‘activity’ and ‘supervision’ requirement.
Rehabilitation Activity Requirements can include:-
- Instructions to participate in specified activities
- Instructions to go to a specified place
- Activities that form part of an accredited programme
- Activities with a reparative purpose, such as restorative justice.
An activity is considered a restorative justice activity if:-
- The participants consist of, or include, the ‘offender’ and one or more victims
- The aim of the activity is to maximise the individuals awareness of the impact of the offending concerned on the victims
- The activity gives a victim or victims an opportunity to talk about, or otherwise express experience of, the offending and its impact
A court will determine which requirements to impose in a community order or suspended sentence order taking into consideration the advice in any Pre-Sentence Report.
When considering the content of a Rehabilitation Activity Requirement, the National Probation Service must identify and pay proper regard to the rehabilitative and criminogenic needs of individuals, as well as an assessment of their offending behaviour and associated risks. For further information see PI58/2014
Each Community Rehabilitation Company will make information available to the NPS about what rehabilitative services are available in their contract package and this will shape the advice the NPS gives to the courts on sentencing. This means that rehabilitation activity requirements are likely to vary from one contract package area to another.
- For practical information – More information on community order and suspended prison sentences
- To discuss this with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
- Questions – If you have any questions about this you can contact our helpline.