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What is a Community Order?

If an offender is found guilty of a crime that does not meet the threshold for a custodial sentence, a judge or a magistrate can pass a community order (also known as a community sentence).

When a community order (CO) is passed, the offence must be considered ‘serious enough’ to justify the imposition of a community order; otherwise a lesser penalty (such as a fine or a conditional / absolute discharge) is likely to be imposed.

The Possible Conditions

There are various conditions that can be issued as part of a community order. These requirements differ according to the offender and the crime committed, however, an order can run for up to three years. Less serious offences will generally carry one or two conditions, while a more serious offence may have three or more requirements to the order.


This requires the offender to attend regular appointments with probation. The goal is to change the offender’s attitude and behaviour, in a bid to stop them reoffending.

Unpaid work

Unpaid work can range from 40-300 hours, benefitting the local community. There have been many high profile cases of celebrities undertaking community service orders, including former England and Manchester United captain, Wayne Rooney, whom in 2017 pleaded guilty to drink driving. He was issued 100 hours’ community service and banned from driving for 2 years.


This stipulates that the offender must remain in an agreed location for specified hours. Curfews are usually electronically monitored, known as “tagging”.


Designed to address and change a perpetrator’s behaviour, programmes are accredited, and have been created to tackle attitudes and patterns of behaviour that contribute to offending. As an example, in 2017 Leeroy Bailey, a former Britain's Got Talent finalist, admitted one count of making indecent images of children. He was issued with a three-year community order to complete a sex offender programme.

Drug Rehabilitation Requirement (DRR)

A DRR requires the offender to have treatment to address their drug misuse. In a bid to help the offender transform their drug related lifestyle, the DRR can take between six months and 3 years to complete, whilst they must provide samples for testing when required.

Alcohol Treatment

In cases where offenders have a drink dependency that causes them to commit a crime, they can be ordered by the court to complete alcohol treatment. This is a tailored programme with the aim to reduce dependency on alcohol, whilst it can also last between 6 months and 3 years.

Attendance Centre

This requirement means the offender must visit an attendance centre, providing punishment and supportive rehabilitation work that encourages people that have committed crimes to make positive changes to their life. This condition commands the offender to visit the attendance centre for between 12 and 36 hours, while it’s only available for those under 25.

Rehabilitation Activity Requirement

A rehabilitation activity requirement (RAR) necessitates an offender to undertake training or education, leading to them gaining qualifications. It is issued for the purpose of preventing reoffending, while providing support tailored to an individual’s needs.


The offender must reside at a specified address for up to 3 years, such as an approved premises or a private address.

Mental Health Treatment

Only to be imposed with the consent of a person with a conviction, this condition is issued with direction of a doctor or physiologist.


The offender is excluded from entering a particular place or location for a period of up to two years, such as specific shops, properties or streets.

Prohibited Activity

The offender must not participate in stipulated activities for a certain period (up to three years), such as not attending a football match.

What happens if you breach a community order?

If a breach occurs, the court will do one of the following:

  • Adjust the terms of the original order, usually meaning the requirements placed on the offender are more severe.
  • Revoke the original order and re-sentence for the original offence.

It’s therefore critical to ensure you maintain contact with the probation service, and seek expert legal advice if you feel there is a risk that you will break an order. If you have been given bail but have failed to attend court, you are committing an offence under section 6(1) or section 6(2) of the Bail Act 1976.

If you have not appeared in court, the prosecution will apply to the court for a “warrant without bail”, meaning once you are found and arrested, you will be held in custody until your trial. That said, it is possible to show you have a “reasonable cause” for failing to appear, however, strong evidence is a must – reaffirming just how vital it is to have seek legal advice early on.

Have community sentences decreased over the past decade?

As discussed, community sentences are generally reserved for less serious crimes, such as theft, drink driving and non-grievous assault. The number of community orders has, however, halved over the past decade, with a relatively sharp decline from 2011 onwards, particularly for theft and drugs offences. One possible reason, as outlined in Crest Advisory’s research report “Community sentences: where did it all go wrong?” is that magistrates have lost faith in community orders. The report states that 37% are not confident that community sentences are an effective alternative to custody, and 65% are not confident that community sentences reduce crime.

Speak to our team

It is worth noting, that the Probation service do not inform the solicitor whom represented you at the hearing where the order was imposed, that breach proceedings have been instigated. If you have breached a community order, feel you are at risk of doing so, or received a court summons for breach of proceedings, it’s vital to seek the very best legal advice. With decades of experience behind us, our highly skilled solicitors can provide advice on possible sentences, while offering representation for any offence, fighting for your rights every step of the way.

To discuss your case with us, please call 07000 81 82 83 or email us at and we’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.

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