Website helps public understand probation

Monday, 28 July, 2008

Judge for yourself on community sentences

An on-line programme in which members of the public can decide what they think is the most suitable sentence for virtual offenders has been launched by Justice Minister David Hanson

"Judge for Yourself" will allow people to go on-line and experience the work of probation first hand. Based on examples of real cases, people can ask for more information on each offender, get advice from the probation officer involved and select the sentence they think is appropriate.

The minister said, "This project will allow the public to have a better understanding of how sentences work and see the benefits of different sentences for individual offenders. We already know that strong community sentences are both an effective punishment and a means of reform and this project can show the public what actually happened in these real life cases and the outcomes after the sentence.

"Prison is necessary to punish and reform offenders and protect the public from the most serious, dangerous and persistent offenders. The Government will always ensure there are places available for those offenders. But it is not necessarily the best route for less serious offenders who may lose their job, their accommodation and their family ties after a short period of imprisonment. Putting offenders through tough community sentences can often be more effective in reducing re-offending than a short spell in prison and the research shows the British public want rehabilitation of offenders at the heart of our justice system, and they want what works to cut crime."

An ICM survey polled over 3,000 people across England and Wales and revealed only 25 per cent of the public understood what makes up a community sentence, typically a combination of rehabilitation and punishment. "Judge for Yourself" is designed to help tackle these misunderstandings. Its interactive design will help educate people about Community Sentencing and the National Probation Service and the programme can be accessed by the general public and will be available to schools from September.

Magistrate Nicholas Moss said, 'It's essential that we all have confidence in the system. One of the ways we can do that is by understanding how community sentencing works and the options available to courts.

He added, "This virtual on-line depiction is a realistic portrayal of the process behind sentencing offenders and will be extremely useful for anyone trying to understand more about community sentencing."

The site can be viewed at

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