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Community work - more than half fail to show

Community work - more than half fail to show

More than half of offenders ordered by courts to perform community work do not bother turning up, says Tony Ryall, National's Law and Order Spokesman

In many parts of the country - such as Otara, Mangere, Porirua and Christchurch - it is even worse with two out of three failing to report.

"Community work has become a Clayton's sentence. Here are burglars, wife-beaters and shoplifters, sentenced to community work as punishment, all thumbing their noses at the justice system and their victims. It's disgusting," says Mr Ryall

"Why would anyone take this sentence seriously when so few people actually turn up and do their time? It's an easy option and the Government is making it even easier" said Mr Ryall.

"We first suggested ideas to fix this last year and it's time the government took action on them".

On average only 47% of those expected to turn up for community work actually do.

"This is a far cry from the 85% compliance rate that the Government crows about" said Mr Ryall.

The figures are revealed in internal Corrections Department compliance reports released to the National Party under the Official Information Act.

"The staff who supervise the scheme tell me that offenders' excuses would make your hair curl: from 'no transport', to 'it's raining' or 'can't be there I'm drunk'!"

"What makes this worse is that when these offenders are taken to court for breaching their community work sentence, half of them get more community work! They don't show up now so what's the point?

"And a quarter of all offenders who do not turn up for community work get convicted and discharged with no additional penalty. In fact, many get their sentences wiped altogether.

"Last year a 26 year old beneficiary charged with assault, multiple thefts and breach of community work was ordered to pay $57 reparation, $100 costs and as a bonus got her community work wiped!

"The problem is offenders have one or two years to do their community work sentence, but no weekly minimum. This means they keep ignoring their sentence until it's too late.

"Urgent changes are needed to give Corrections staff the power to require a minimum number of community work hours per week be done, and to impose immediate penalties as most community work breaches take months to get to court. We first called for this change late last year and it's time the Government woke up" said Mr Ryall.

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