Community payback success

A COURT punnishment that sees offenders carrying out unpaid work in their community has been hailed at a reaches a milestone anniversary.

County Durham was one of the areas chosen to pilot the Community Payback scheme that was introduced across England and Wales by the 1970 Wootton Report on alternatives to prison and became operational 40 years ago this week.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of offenders across the country have worked millions of hours picking up litter, clearing brambles, painting fences and restoring public gardens to make their communities a better place to live.

In the area covered by the Durham Tees Valley Probation Trust (DTVPT) almost 180,000 hours were worked during 2011/12, which equates to more than £1.1m of unpaid labour carried out for communities.

DTVPT chief executive Russell Bruce spent part of his early probation career supervising community payback – or community service as it was then.

He said: “The name of the order has changed, but the core value of community payback has stayed the same. It’s about visible reparation to communities that have been harmed by offending.

“But it also teaches offenders new skills and helps to reconnect them with the places they have grown up and lived but become detached from.

“It’s always been about bringing people who have offended back together with communities to reduce re-offending.”

The name of the scheme has changed several times – in 2001 it became known as Community Punishment, then Enhanced Community Punishment, then Unpaid Work, before being retitled Community Payback in 2005.

From December 2008, offenders working their hours have been made to wear fluorescent orange jackets with Community Payback stamped across the back.

The guidance given to magistrates says the purposes of Community Payback are punishment, reparation and rehabilitation and offenders can be ordered to work between 40 and 300 hours, which normally need to be finished within 12 months.