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Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002

Section 55: Community responsibility orders

103.This section amends the 1998 Order to provide for a further additional sentencing option for the courts in relation to children.

104.Where a child is found guilty of an offence, other than an offence the sentence for which the sentence is fixed by law as imprisonment for life, the court may make a community responsibility order. Such an order will have two distinct components. The first part will require the offender to attend a specific place for a few hours at a time where they will receive “relevant instruction in citizenship” (new Article 36E(2)(a)). This part must be at least one-half of the total number of hours specified in the order (new Article 36E(5)). “Relevant instruction in citizenship” is defined in new Article 36E(3) and covers personal and social responsibility, the impact of crime on victims and any factors in the offender’s life that may be linked to crime. The second part of the order will require the offender to carry out, for a specified number of hours, such practical activities as the responsible officer (defined in new Article 36E(4)) considers appropriate in the light of the instruction given to the offender. The aggregate number of hours specified in the order must be not less than 20 and not more than 40 (new Article 36E(6)). Both aspects of the order must be completed within 6 months of the order being made (new Article 36G(4)). A community responsibility order can only be made with the offender’s consent (new Article 36F(1)).

105.Community responsibility orders are community sentences within the meaning of Article 2(2) of the 1996 Order (by virtue of the amendment to that Order made by paragraph 55(2) of Schedule 12). By virtue of Article 9(3) of the 1996 Order (as amended by paragraph 56 of Schedule 12) the court must obtain a pre-sentence report before making a community responsibility order, unless it considers it unnecessary to do so in the circumstances. New Article 36F(4) requires the court, before making a community responsibility order, to state in open court that it is of the opinion that Article 8(1) of the 1996 Order applies and why it is of that opinion. This means that the court must be satisfied that the offence, or the combination of the offence and one or more other offences associated with it, was serious enough to warrant a community responsibility order. The concept of offences associated with other offences is defined in Article 2(7) of the 1996 Order(5).

106.Provision for dealing with breach of a community responsibility order and for the revocation or amendment of an order is made in Schedule 10 (which adds a new Schedule 1A to the 1998 Order). Article 36H allows the Secretary of State to make rules for regulating both the attendance of offenders subject to community responsibility orders and the functions of responsible officers (defined in Article 36E(4)).

5

See footnote 4 above.

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