A community order, sometimes referred to as community sentences, allow judges or magistrates to tailor a sentence to meet the needs of a person with a conviction. The sentence is served in the community under the supervision of a Offender Manager. This is still considered a punishment, in that it may restrict the movements and activities of a person with a conviction, as well as encouraging attendance at activities or treatment-based interventions that are rehabilitative in nature.  

Sentencers can impose several different conditions, or ‘requirements’ on the order to enable a person with a conviction to address their offending behaviour. There are a total of twelve different requirements although a person with a conviction would not have all the requirements attached to their order. Less serious offences would generally carry only one or two whereas a more serious offence may have three or more elements to the order. There are 3 levels of a Community Order, Low, Medium and High. A low level order would require one or more elements whereas a high level would require two or more.

The requirements are as follows:

Supervision – by a Probation Trust. Where a person with a conviction will have to attend regular meetings with a probation officer who will undertake work with them to change their attitudes and behaviour.

Unpaid Work/Community Payback – up to a maximum of 300 hours set work performed for the benefit of the community.

Curfew –where an person with a conviction can be ordered to stay within the confines of their home during certain hours of the day for up to six months. The curfew can be for up to 12 hours within a 24 hour period. Curfews are usually electronically monitored.

Accredited Programmes – the person with a conviction must attend a group or one-to-one programme designed to address behaviours that lead to offending, such as programmes for drink-drivers, sex offenders or those who misuse drugs.

Specified Activities – these can include reparation to victims or work on to improve their basic skills such as literacy and numeracy.

Prohibition – the person with a conviction is barred from certain activities, for example attending a football match or going to a pub, on a particular day or days for a period determined by the court.

Exclusion – where a person with a conviction can be excluded from entering certain areas for up to two years. This may include electronic monitoring.

Residence – where a person with a conviction has to live at a certain address for example approved premises such as a hostel or a private address. This is approved by the National Probation Trust.

Mental Health Treatment – this can only be imposed with the consent of the person with a conviction, and is done under the direction of a doctor or psychologist.

Drug Rehabilitation – this includes testing and treatment and can also only be imposed with the consent of the person with a conviction. This is designed to reduce or eliminate their dependency on drugs.

Attendance Centre – the person with a conviction must attend a centre for between 12 and 36 hours. They may focus on developing their social skills at the same time as challenging their offending behaviour. This can only be imposed on people under the age of 25.

Alcohol Treatment – the person with a conviction is required to attend treatment to reduce or eliminate dependence on alcohol.

A Foreign Travel Prohibition Requirement – this must not exceed 12 months.

Alcohol Abstinence and Monitoring – is a power given to the courts that allows them to order people with convictions to abstain from alcohol for a period of up to 120 days and to be regularly tested for compliance.

These requirements are also available to the courts when a suspended sentence is imposed upon an person with a conviction.


Community Payback Order

The Community Payback Order (CPO) replaces the Community Service Orders, Probation Orders and Supervised Attendance Orders.

This order is available to the courts and came into force in 2011. If you are imposed with a CPO, you may be ordered to carry out unpaid work in the community, or attend a programme to help with any behavioural or addiction problems.

There are nine requirements available to the court as part of a Community Payback Order. Each person with a conviction will be assessed to determine whether one or more of the requirements are appropriate.

The requirements are:

  • Supervision
  • Unpaid work
  • Drug treatment
  • Alcohol treatment
  • Conduct
  • Programme
  • Residential
  • Mental health
  • Compensation

When you are imposed with a CPO, you will be allocated a case manager directly from the court. You must meet with this case manager to discuss the CPO and they will outline the requirements you have been ordered to fulfil. If you have any questions or concerns you should raise them with the case manager.

People with convictions on Community Payback Orders can find themselves repainting community halls, maintaining the grounds of public spaces or assisting at a local charity. Considerations will be made on whether a certain area of work is suitable for a person with a conviction. Your age, health status, child protection issues, and the nature of your offense will be taken into consideration before you are issued a CPO.

During unpaid work you will be supervised by a Community Payback Order Task Supervisor. They will be available to ensure you’re fulfilling your responsibilities and also to assist you if you experience any difficulties.

In brief:

  1. There is no minimum age for a CPO.
  2. If ordered to do unpaid work as part of their CPO, people with convictions can be asked to work between 20-300 hours in total.
  3. Orders usually cover a period between 6 months and 3 years.
  4. However, those on unpaid work orders will be expected to complete the work within three months.
  5. The court may decide to conduct review hearings throughout a person with a conviction’s CPO to check on progress.

This page was updated on November 2018