Offenders carrying out community service orders are making a positive contribution to a range of initiatives while repaying their debt to society.
Recent projects have included groundwork to prepare a cycle trail and children’s play area at Archallagan Plantation, assisting the creation of a new wildlife garden at Scoill Phurt Le Moirrey and joining Island charity Beach Buddies to clear litter from coastal areas.
Community service orders are handed down by the courts as an alternative to custodial sentences and require individuals to perform unpaid work in their own time. They are viewed as a way of imposing an effective punishment, while ensuring that prison is reserved for the most serious and persistence offenders – the central aim of the Department of Home Affairs Criminal Justice Strategy.
Projects are carried out under the direction of a Probation Officer and Community Service Supervisor and encourage offenders to make amends in a way that benefits local communities.
Tasks such as painting, litter picking, gardening and general maintenance are usually completed as part of weekend work groups on behalf of a charitable trust or non-profit making organisation.
Home Affairs Minister Juan Watterson MHK said: ‘We are currently leading a major reform of the Island’s criminal justice system, which is aimed at improving key policy areas in respect of crime prevention and sentencing. I believe that community service orders have an important role to play as part of the overall mix of traditional sentencing options and newer approaches, such as restorative justice.’
He added: ‘Community service orders are a good example of how offenders can be held accountable for their actions in a way that benefits our society. They are certainly not a soft option and support our efforts to address reoffending and maintain public safety.’
Community Service groups have recently worked alongside sports clubs, companies and volunteers to clear sections of Archallagan Plantation and build cycle trails and a children’s play area.
Offenders have also helped to prepare a site, dig a trench and set posts at Scoill Phurt Le Moirrey for children to put up nesting boxes and cameras. This project will allow pupils to view the activity of birds and their young using the remote cameras.
Other weekend work groups have been helping to rejuvenate local beauty spots by cleaning beaches, glens and highways across the Island.
Bill Dale, founder of Beach Buddies, said: ‘We have had numerous community service work groups helping at Beach Buddies team events, and they have gone through the same learning curve as all our volunteers. It’s fair to say that lots of people are sceptical about clearing up rubbish left by others, but when they get involved and see the difference it makes, they all go home with a smile on their face. The community service workers have also walked away with smiles on their faces and a sense of achievement, and their contribution has been very positive, and very welcome, making a genuine difference to the Isle of Man’s environment and the safety of wildlife.’
Organisations wishing to discuss potential projects for community service work groups should contact David Martin, Probation Service Officer, on 687325 or email David.Martin@gov.im