Under the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act 1983 a court may make a community service order as an alternative to a sentence of imprisonment or detention in respect of any individual over the age of 16 years who has been convicted of a criminal offence and who consents to the order being made. The order requires an offender to perform unpaid work for between 40 and 240 hours, usually to be completed within 12 months. An offender may be rehabilitated through the discipline of having to work in the community and the making of meaningful reparation to that community for his or her crime. The probation and welfare service of my Department supervise those offenders undergoing community service orders.
The making of a community service order is a matter entirely for the judiciary and one in which I have no function. However, the courts already have and do exercise wide discretion in using community service orders in dealing with people over 16 years of age who offend. It is used in practice for all age categories of offenders, first time or recidivist.
Work projects are negotiated by the probation and welfare service with a wide range of community and voluntary agencies, usually resulting from an approach by the agency but, when necessary, arising from an approach to an agency by the service. An agreement negotiated with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions requires that the work undertaken would be work which would be left undone if the labour was not made available through the community service order scheme. It also requires that the work undertaken would not normally be the work of persons employed by the organisation e.g. collecting litter.