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Annex G Probation Guidance for Report Writers

Ministry of Justice (National Offender Management Service) and Offender Assessment And Management Group

Community Impact Statements

Practice note for pre-sentence report authors in pilot areas

This practice note should be read in conjunction with the HMCS document "Community Impact Statements Guidance note version 2"

What are Community Impact Statements (CIS)?

A Community Impact Statement is a short document compiled by the police, illustrating the concerns and priorities of a specific community, covering a geographical area and time period (usually updated each quarter). It is a formal statement, which takes the format of a section 9 witness statement where required. It may be either a generic or specific statement outlining the impact crime is having on a particular community. It will contain evidence regarding which community groups in that area have been affected and how as well as information on local recorded crime and data on anti-social incidents.

It will be included within the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) bundle only when the police have decided that the statement is relevant to the offence(s) for which the individual defendant has been prosecuted.

The intention is to give communities, especially those most affected by crime, a voice in the local justice system, thereby ensuring that significant local issues concerning crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour are taken into account in the criminal justice process.

The CIS may be used to inform the sentencing process and, where appropriate, will form part of the evidence considered by probation staff when preparing a pre-sentence report whether in the format of standard delivery, fast delivery or oral.

Use as a sentencing tool

It may inform the judicial sentencing process in the following ways:

(i) To assist the bench in putting offences into the context in which they are committed.
(ii) Where there are exceptional local circumstances community impact statements can, on the basis of prevalence, impact on the sentence imposed in accordance with guidance from the Sentencing Guidelines Council (SGC).
(iii) Where appropriate, for the bench to use the contents of community impact statement as part of their sentencing pronouncements.

And it will provide a tool used by probation staff to inform proposals for sentences within pre-sentence reports, including community payback.

The Sentencing Guidelines Council issued a guideline (Overarching Principles: Seriousness - December 2004) on the assessment of seriousness. This stated that whilst seriousness should be assessed on the basis of the harm and culpability of the particular offence/offender, it is legitimate for the overall approach to sentencing levels for particular offences to be directed by the cumulative effect. As the pivotal issue will be the harm caused to the community, "it is essential that sentencers both have supporting evidence from an external source (for example the Local Criminal Justice Board) to justify claims that a particular crime is prevalent in their area and are satisfied that there is a compelling need to treat the offence more seriously than elsewhere".

This means that enhanced sentences should be an exceptional response to exceptional circumstances, and be supported by clear evidence (Adapted from text by JJ Buckley February 2007 in briefing paper, Warwickshire Criminal Justice Board) .

How will the CIS affect pre-sentence report preparation?

(i) The CIS will provide information which will assist probation in proposing a sentence that is in line with the local context and addresses the harm the offender has caused to the local community eg through completing unpaid work. It will not usually impact directly upon seriousness on the basis of prevalence unless "exceptional local circumstances" are indicated by the court. The CIS can be used to assess the seriousness of an offence based on the harm that the offending behaviour has had on the community.

(ii) It will only be provided where the police have judged it to have direct relevance to the case. If it is not included in the CPS documents, the report should be prepared in the usual way.

(ii) The CIS should be included in the sources of information where appropriate and report writers should make clear where it has contributed to the assessment and/or proposal.

(iii) The information may shed light upon the offence analysis and risk and needs assessment by providing a local context. The CIS should be discussed in interview together with other information in the CPS bundle. It will be a useful tool to provide an evidential basis for discussion and assessment of attitudes towards the offending and impact upon victims and communities.

(iv) It may at times be appropriate to draw upon the CIS to inform sentence proposal and to provide supporting rationale. However, report authors should take care to individualise such use of the CIS and make the links clearly.

(v) Use of the CIS may be most likely to inform a proposal for community payback and will be particularly significant if it is possible to make a direct reparative link with the project to which the offender may be allocated.

(vi) The CIS content may be included in work to be undertaken during supervision, for instance, as part of a sentence plan objective to address victim awareness issues or anti-social attitudes.

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