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More criminals to do community service instead of jail time

New justice bill will require judges to consider handing down community service order instead of sentences of 12 months and under.

Image: Andrew Bardwell via Flickr

A NEW CRIMINAL JUSTICE Bill published today is aiming to “encourage the greater use of community service orders” instead of jail terms.

Justice and Law Reform Minister Alan Shatter said the Criminal Justice (Community Service) amendment Bill was intended to provide “a sentencing system at a lower cost to the taxpayer”. He said that the community service scheme was “significantly under-utilised” in Ireland and that the Bill would require judges to consider the option of community service in cases where they would normally impose a jail sentence of 12 months or under.

There were 1,949 community service orders (CSOs) issued by the courts last year – up from 843 in 2004. A CSO can be handed down to any offender over the age of 16.

Minister Shatter claims that if only 10 per cent of those sentenced to 12 months or less in 2009 had instead been handed a CSO, it would have saved the State coffers between €13m and €18m. He also said that the work carried out by the offender in the community would also be of value. He added:

Increasing the use of community service delivers financial savings, diverts from the prison system offenders whose imprisonment is a substantial expense to the State and provides reparation in the form of unpaid work to the benefit of the community.

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