For an adult defendant, a custodial sentence means prison. A custodial sentence is defined by the Section 76 of the Power of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 and Criminal Justice Act 2003 states that a court should not pass a custodial sentence unless it considers that the crime was so serious that only a custodial sentence is justified. Although the previous Conservative Government claimed that prison works in the sense that offenders cannot commit crime while they are in prison, and so the public is protected, however the number of people in prison has been growing at an alarming rate over the recent years causing the prisons to be overcrowded. To what extend it would be far better to impose community sentences rather than custodial sentences as well as the circumstances in which a court might choose to impose a community sentence, will be further access in the discussion below.
Section 148 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 states that a community sentence can only be imposed if the offence was serious enough to warrant such a sentence. This sentence combines punishment with activities carried out in the community. It has requirement on the offenders that they must meet while serving their sentences. Where a court passes a community sentence, the particular requirements of the sentence must be the most suitable for the offender. The restrictions on liberty imposed by the order must be commensurate with the seriousness of the offence, or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it.
To what extent the statement is accurate, community sentence avoid the need of locking up and sending more offenders to the jail which will further lead increasing the population to the already overcrowded prison. Alternatively, the community sentences impose substantial restrictions on the offender’s freedom and following the Crime and Courts Act 2013, every community sentences must contain a punitive element, such as unpaid work or a curfew order. Besides, the requirement in the community order also includes rehabilitation activities, supervision requirement tor foreign travel prohibition. As a result, imposing community sentence punish the offenders at the same time it helps in reducing the problem such as shortage of prison places which further lead to the decision of government to put some prisoners in police cells while providing no facilities for education and rehabilitation. In addition, the prisons are also extremely expensive, three weeks in prison costs as much as a lengthy community sentence. By locking up a person in the prison for 30 years, the state is investing a million pounds in punishing that individual.
Although there are good reasons to encourage the use of the community sentences, the custodial sentence may still be necessary for serious crime involving violence. Custodial sentence works in a way that by putting the defendant in the cells, it protects the members of public from significant risk of serious harm from the dangerous offenders. There might have some concerns arise if a dangerous offender is not given a custodial sentence but curfew order if he is not adequately supervised by the probation service.
In conclusion, it is understandable for the court to impose community sentence due to the problem of increasing population in the prison. However, the courts have to be vary when imposing a sentence and subject to proper assessment by taking into account the nature of the crime as well as other factors to commensurate the seriousness of the crime convicted by the individual.