Criminal Sentences & Criminal Records
Types of sentence
There are four types of sentence available to the courts, depending upon the seriousness of the crime. They are:
Community punishments can also include rehabilitation and making amends, such as 'restorative justice' where the criminal makes amends directly to his victim(s).
Imprisonment is used for the most serious offences and offenders. As well as sentencing guidelines, which judges and magistrates are given, all imprisonable offences have a maximum term laid down by Parliament. There are also minimum sentences for some serious repeat offenders.
A community sentence is not a soft option. It combines punishment with changing offenders' behaviour and making amends - sometimes directly to the victim of the crime. It can also encourage the offender to deal with any problems that might be making them commit crime - like drugs.
As part of the reform of sentences, the various kinds of community order for adults have been replaced by a single generic community order with a range of possible requirements. The separate community orders for adults such as the community punishment order are only used for crime committed up until 4 April 2005. For all offences committed after that date, Courts are able to choose different elements to make up a bespoke community order which is relevant to that particular offender and the crime(s) they committed.
Technological advances, such as electronic tagging and voice recognition provide ways to restrict liberty and reduce crime without requiring a prison sentence.
The range of requirements available with a generic community sentence or Community Order are:
Compulsory (unpaid) work;
Participation in any specified activities;
Programmes aimed at changing offending behaviour;
Prohibition from certain activities;
Exclusion from certain areas;
Mental health treatment (with consent of the offender);
Drug treatment and testing (with consent of the offender);
Alcohol treatment (with consent of the offender);
See Legal Terms Glossary
It is important that offenders receive the right combination of these in their Community Order as it can affect whether they offend in the future.
Before agreeing to any of these disposals, the defendant should make sure that they understand how this decision could affect their future.
Although these disposals are not convictions, as the defendant do not have to go to court if they accept and comply with them, some or all of the following may still apply to the defendant as a result:
Local police may keep their own record of this disposal;
It may be recorded on the Police National Computer and form part of th defendants formal criminal record, and may be shown to a court if the defendant gets into further trouble;
It might be used in court as evidence of the defendants bad character, as part of an application for bail or an application for an ASBO, or in other criminal proceedings (such as a trial);
The police may tell the defendants current employers about the disposal in certain circumstances;
If in the future the defendant applies for certain jobs, for example with the army or the police or working with children, the defendant may need to tell the people they are applying to about this disposal and this may stop him/her getting the job;
In some circumstances, cautions for certain offences will mean that the defendant can't work in certain jobs where he or she will have direct contact with children, such as a teacher, nursery assistant, child social worker, school bus driver, and voluntary jobs like coaching a youth football team (this could sometimes apply even if there is no direct contact, such as being a trustee of a children's charity);
In some circumstances, it may mean that the defendant is not allowed to travel to or work in some countries outside the European Union;
If the defendant are being dealt with for a sexual offence, it could mean that he or she is placed on the Sex Offenders' Register;
The defendant will also face these restrictions if he or she is convicted of, or pleads guilty to, the offence at court.
When it is decided which disposal is suitable, the police should explain the effects of that disposal to the offender before they agree to accept it. It is important that any accused speaks to a criminal solicitor before accepting a disposal if they are in any doubt about how this will affect their future.
Criminal RecordsInformation relating to convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings for recordable offences is retained on the Police National Computer (PNC). In accordance with the ACPO Retention Guidelines such information is retained for 100 years. After this time the police will delete the record.
CRB Standard and Enhanced disclosures contain information about convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings retained on the Police National Computer (PNC) and the equivalent Scottish and Northern Ireland systems.
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) does not apply to certain jobs such as those involving access to children or vulnerable adults and other sensitive positions. The full list of exceptions is contained within the Exceptions Order to this Act.
In addition Enhanced Disclosures contain information held in local police records that the police consider is relevant to the post or position being applied for. This could include information about Penalty Notices for Disorder and non conviction information, if in the opinion of the Chief Officer it is considered to be relevant to the post or position applied for.