Breaking the law has consequences.  But for those convicted, prison is just one of the punishments available to our judiciary.  Less serious cases might see a fine, driving ban or time spent on Community Payback.  It is the Payback initiative that I want to highlight as I am not sure how much is known about this type of penalty.

Alex Chalk, when serving as Justice Minister, to his great credit, re-vamped this initiative and now every year, eight million hours of community work will now be completed around the country via Community Payback.

For offenders where the magistrate thinks it is the best way to stop reoffending, up to 300 hours of unpaid community work can be awarded.  In that event, the probation service has a range of outdoor and indoor tasks available so that offenders can ‘payback’ the community they have offended against.

Tasks primarily involve jobs such as litter picking, clearing up broken glass, clearing leaves or undergrowth, removing fly tipping, trimming overgrown hedges, clearing rural paths, removing graffiti, clearing wasteland, simple gardening and landscaping, tree planting, maintaining churchyards, painting fences, railings or public buildings (such as a community centre), or anything where an extra ‘pair of hands’ would be useful.

Last week, I watched one of these teams working in Gloucester Park on landscape tasks, helping to make it a more attractive place to walk.  Together with the new CCTV and lighting upgrades, this will make Gloucester Park a much more popular venue for the local community.

Communities, charities, and schools could be the beneficiaries.  Teams are supervised throughout and operate seven days a week, as many offenders still work, so can only work at weekends.  You can see what sort of things the community payback schemes gets involved in on Twitter @swprobationupw

The recent government review of the role of PCCs will mean I have greater oversight of criminal justice processes. In the context of Community Payback, I am keen this opportunity is maximised to provide mutual benefit to our communities and those who are subject to the orders.

The Community Payback initiative can make a real difference to communities and offenders.  If you know of areas that need a spring clean, please get in touch with my team on pcc@gloucestershire-pcc.gov.uk