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Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012

Suspended sentence orders
Section 68 and Schedule 9: Changes to powers to make suspended sentence order

385.Section 68 amends provisions relating to suspended sentences. Currently a court cannot suspend prison sentences that are longer than 12 months. The courts are also currently required to attach at least one “community requirement” to a suspended sentence even if they consider that no community requirement is necessary in the circumstances. (Community requirements are available to address issues of offender behaviour through treatment programmes such as alcohol or drug addiction and poor cognitive skills.)

386.Subsection (1) amends section 189 of the 2003 Act to enable courts to suspend longer sentences of imprisonment, namely those between 14 days and two years. The amended section also provides the court with discretion as to whether or not to impose community requirements. The section retains the current position whereby the sentence of imprisonment will not take effect unless the offender fails to comply with a community requirement or is convicted of a further offence during the period of suspension.

387.Subsection (2) provides that, where a court imposes consecutive sentences, the power to make a suspended sentence order is limited to cases where the sentence does not exceed two years in total.

388.Subsections (3) and (4) clarify that the provisions relating to the length of supervision periods (the period during which the offender is subject to one or more community requirements) apply only to those orders with community requirements.

389.Subsection (6) gives effect to Schedule 9, which makes consequential and transitional provision (see below).

390.Subsection (7) provides that the new provisions apply to offences committed before, and after, the section comes into force where the offender is sentenced after the section comes into force.

Schedule 9: Changes to powers to make suspended sentence orders: consequential and transitory provision

391.Paragraphs 1 to 19 of Schedule 9 make various amendments which are consequential on the changes to powers to make suspended sentence orders introduced by section 68, in particular to ensure requirements that are only appropriate for suspended sentences with community requirements do not apply where they would be inappropriate or unnecessary for suspended sentence without community requirements.

392.Paragraph 20 of Schedule 9 contains a transitory provision to apply the new provisions to detention in young offender institutions, since pending the coming into force of section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 (which will abolish a sentence of detention in a young offender institution), such a sentence is still possible.

Section 69: Fine for breach of suspended sentence order

393.At present the court has no power to impose a fine for breach of a suspended sentence order. Section 69 inserts a new provision into paragraph 8 of Schedule 12 to the 2003 Act. This will enable the court to impose a fine of up to £2,500 for breach of a suspended sentence order where it decides not to give effect to the custodial sentence.

394.A suspended sentence order is breached where an offender fails to comply with any community requirement or is convicted of another offence during the period for which the sentence is suspended. Any fine is enforced as it would be had it been imposed on conviction

395.Subsection (3) inserts a new provision giving the Secretary of State a power by order (subject to the negative Parliamentary procedure) to amend the maximum amount of a fine which may be imposed by the magistrates’ court or Crown Court in relation to a breach of a suspended sentence order. The power may only be exercised if it appears to the Secretary of State that there has been a change in the value of money. The power replicates the power of the courts in relation to breach of a youth rehabilitation order (see paragraph 10 of Schedule 2 to the 2008 Act). It also replicates a power conferred by section 67(7) of the Act in relation to a fine for breach of a community order.

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