I dealt with a few Community Order breaches this week. Probation (or Serco, the tagged curfew contractors) present the facts, and the offender admits or (occasionally) denies them.
If the breach is admitted or proved, the court must deal with it, usually by adding conditions to make it more onerous, such as more hours of unpaid work or a longer curfew. Costs can be ordered. Sometimes Probation throw up their hands and say that the order is 'unworkable' so we are invited to revoke the order and re-sentence.
That can be a complex process, especially when our man has done some of the order, but failed on others. If resentencing it is only fair to make some allowance for what has been done, such as perhaps a third of unpaid work hours being completed (however grudgingly) or a part of a prescribed course attended.
One of our cases this week involved a man whose response to the constructive parts of his order (supervision and anger management) had been hopeless, but who had stuck to his curfew. His solicitor, a respected regular in our court, filled in some traumatic family background for his client.
My colleague and I agreed on a compassionate view, and imposed an immediate prison sentence, that we were able to offset against time he had spent in custody awaiting trial. He was in tears when I asked him to stand up, but he thanked us as the sentence sank in.
Both of us on the bench were convinced that he wasn't acting, and we live in hope (although we are not daft) that this might be his chance to get himself sorted out. We both wish him well.
If it all goes wrong we shall see him again, and he knows what to expect if we do.
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