Overarching Sentencing Guideline

5. Imposition of Community Orders


General principles

Community orders can fulfil all of the purposes of sentencing. In particular, they can have the effect of restricting the offender’s liberty while providing punishment in the community, rehabilitation for the offender, and/or ensuring that the offender engages in reparative activities.

A community order must not be imposed unless the offence is serious enough to warrant such a sentence.  Where an offender is being sentenced for a non-imprisonable offence, there is no power to make a community order.

Sentencers must consider all available disposals at the time of sentence; even where the threshold for a community sentence has been passed, a fine or discharge may be an appropriate penalty, depending on the circumstances of the case.

A Band D fine may be an appropriate alternative to a community order.  This particularly may be the case where offenders are unable to meaningfully engage with a community order as a result of being due to leave the jurisdiction.

The court must ensure that the restriction on the offender’s liberty is commensurate with the seriousness of the offence and that the requirements imposed are those most suitable to meet the purposes of sentencing.

Where an offender has previously been subject to a community order sentences should not necessarily escalate from one community order range to the next on each sentencing occasion. The decision as to the appropriate range of community order should be based upon the seriousness of the new offence(s) (which will take into account any previous convictions).

In general, sentencers should impose at least one requirement for the purpose of punishment and/or a fine imposed in addition to the community order, unless it would be unjust to do so in all the circumstances.  It is a matter for the court to decide which requirements amount to a punishment in each case.


Community order levels

The seriousness of the offence should be the initial factor in determining which requirements to include in a community order. Offence-specific guidelines refer to three sentencing levels within the community order band based on offence seriousness (low, medium and high).

The culpability and harm present in the offence(s) should be considered to identify which of the three sentencing levels within the community order band (low, medium and high) is appropriate.

The table below lists non-exhaustive examples of requirements that might be appropriate in relation to each level of community order.



Specific considerations in determining requirements

Where two or more requirements are included, they must be compatible with one another and must not be excessive.  Any requirement must not conflict with an offender’s religious beliefs or with the requirements of any other order to which the offender may be subject. Interference with an offender’s attendance at work or educational establishment should also be avoided.

The particular requirements imposed must be suitable for the individual offender and will be influenced by a range of factors, including:

  • the stated purpose(s) of the sentence;
  • the risk of re-offending;
  • the ability of the offender to comply;
  • the availability of certain requirements.


Community orders consist of one or more of the following requirements:

  • an unpaid work requirement;
  • an activity requirement;
  • a programme requirement;
  • a prohibited activity requirement;
  • a curfew requirement;
  • an exclusion requirement;
  • a residence requirement;
  • a foreign travel prohibition requirement;
  • a mental health treatment requirement;
  • a drug rehabilitation requirement;
  • an alcohol treatment requirement;
  • an alcohol abstinence and monitoring requirement;
  • an intoxicating substance treatment requirement
  • a supervision requirement;
  • an electronic monitoring requirement.

A requirement cannot be imposed unless the court is satisfied that the requirement can be provided by the relevant service provider.  The probation service should be consulted before a community order requirement is imposed.

Pre-sentence reports

In many cases, a pre-sentence report will be pivotal in helping the court decide whether to impose a community order and, if so, whether particular requirements or combinations of requirements are suitable for an individual offender. Whenever the court reaches the provisional view that a community order may be appropriate, it should request a pre-sentence report (whether written or verbal) unless the court is of the opinion that a report is unnecessary in all the circumstances of the case.

It may be helpful to indicate to the probation service the court’s preliminary opinion as to which of the three sentencing ranges is relevant and the purpose(s) of sentencing that the package of requirements is expected to fulfil. However, the court must make clear to the offender that all sentencing options remain open including, in appropriate cases before the Summary Court, committal to the Magistrate’s Court for sentence.



 Previous page Overarching Sentencing Guideline   Next page
 4. Prosecution costs   6. Imposition of Custodial Sentences


5. Imposition of Community Orders
Created: Monday, 15 February 2021 11:43 | Changed: Thursday, 20 May 2021 13:27 | Size: 96.86 KB