Community Orders – a soft option ?

Community Orders not being enforced

Prison is an expensive option for some offences and offenders but public opinion is also skeptical about community payback orders, and recent statistics may partly explain this.

It is all very well having a system which penalizes criminal activity with some kind of payback, and in fact many would support this rather than prison, but only if it works and is enforced. It appears the community orders are not being properly enforced based on :-

  • Only just over 50% of offenders given community penalties were actually made to undertake unpaid work in the past 3 years. Why this is the case is unclear, but it doesn’t go down well with victims of crime or deterrence.
  • Between 2008 and 2010 over 360,000 offenders were given community orders on tasks including gardening, removal of graffiti, rubbish collection.
  • The average length of the required activities was 104 hours, generally spread over a year.

What do you think of the above ? Let us know.

Bribery Act 5 years too late ?

Some may well argue and perhaps rightly so that lawbreakers will always be lawbreakers, they don’t check what the law is before they break it.

But, would the hacking scandal have happened if the Bribery Act had been passed at the time the scandal should have been dealt with in 2007 ? Well, on the one hand, there have always been quite stiff penalties for hacking. It is one of those offences where people can easily go to jail on a first offence and will maybe spend a year or more behind bars, so the penalties do have some “teeth” at least.

On the other hand,  some solicitors argue that what the Bribery Act brings to the table, as it were, is the new concept that top management will be vicariously liable for the actions of staff, even if they did not know of the actions, if they have not taken sufficient and ongoing preventative measures. So, in this instance, Rupert Murdoch could potentially have faced jail for the actions of his staff (who knows he still might although I doubt it somehow). When the buck genuinely stops right at the very top, change seems to miraculously happen, failing which there tends to be layers of protection embedded, and we are already seeing Murdoch vociferously blaming the solicitors …… who surely were in something of a conflict of interest situation, instructed by a massive client whose interests would not have been for their lawyers to advise that criminal activity was widespread. Who knows ?

Turning back to the Bribery Act issue, would this have covered the hacking situation ? Well, probably yes, since it already seems clear that payments were made for information and favour, to secure an advantage. And then there’s the issue of hospitality, causing sufficient embarassment for the Met Police Commissioner to contribute to his resignation tonight. Again, a Bribery Act issue.

Finally, many in big business lobbied hard to get the Bribery Act watered down, and it was somewhat… interesting in itself. Maybe I’m just getting paranoid though !