Sentencing, community penalties and the role of the Probation Service

Authored by: George Mair , Rob Canton

Handbook of Probation

Print publication date:  May  2007
Online publication date:  May  2013

Print ISBN: 9781843921905
eBook ISBN: 9781843926184
Adobe ISBN: 9781134014910


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As recently as 1990 it would have been perceived as academic pedantry to discuss community penalties and the role of the Probation Service. For all intents and purposes (and with the exception of senior attendance centres) community penalties were the Probation Service as far as offenders aged 18 and over were concerned. But even as the 1991 Criminal Justice Act passed into law, there were straws in the wind that — with the benefit of 15 years‘ hindsight — should have been recognised as presaging a sea change for community penalties and the Probation Service. The 1991 Act had changed the way in which probation was seen by introducing a just deserts framework for sentencing that meant community penalties (a new generic term) were now officially sentences in their own right rather than alternatives to custody. The first trials of electronic monitoring had taken place (see Mair and Nee 1990) and, although by no means demonstrating unequivocal success, the use of ‘tagging’ was not about to disappear for good. A new sentence — the combination order — the first since the community service order in 1972, had been introduced. And the idea of partnership working was being actively encouraged by the Home Office (Home Office 1990a, 1991), partly for positive reasons such as the provision of wider opportunities to work with offenders, but also partly as a threat to Probation Services by reminding them that other agencies and organisations could take over their work.

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