Plans for a new generic community sentence for children and young people were unveiled by the government yesterday as part of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill.
The youth rehabilitation orders will combine several existing community sentences into one generic sentence, allowing courts to choose from a menu of different requirements including activities, supervision, curfew and treatment.
The bill also seeks to extend the adult conditional caution scheme to young offenders aged 16 and 17 and introduce annual reviews of antisocial behaviour orders given to under-17s. And it would require courts to consider making individual support orders alongside Asbos issued to young people and children.
The legislation proposes a new crime of “causing nuisance or disturbance on NHS premises” and a new “violent offender order”, which would allow courts to impose post-sentence restrictions on those convicted of violent offences.
The term “common prostitute” will be scrapped and new rehabilitation orders, for instance for drug treatment, will be introduced for those found guilty of loitering or soliciting for the purpose of prostitution.
The bill sets out plans for an independent Commissioner for Offender Management and Prisons to investigate and adjudicate on complaints from offenders and immigration detainees and investigate deaths of prisoners, young people in secure training centres and those detained in certain types of immigration detention accommodation. Most of these functions are currently carried out on a non-statutory basis by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.
Justice minister David Hanson said: “We need to properly protect the public from serious and dangerous individuals and give the courts the tools to issue tough community sentences to rehabilitate offenders and reduce re-offending and in doing so make best use of prison and resources.”
But crime reduction charity Nacro called the bill a “missed opportunity” to reduce the prison population. Its chief executive, Paul Cavadino, said: “Faced with the overcrowding crisis, the government should have used the bill to remove prison as an option for low level crimes and to cut sentence lengths for non-dangerous offences.”
Probation union Napo said the violent offender order, were in effect “super Asbo”, and because of the number of likely breaches could add 4,000 to the prison population.
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