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Sentencing drug offenders under the 2003 Criminal Justice Act: Challenges for the probation service

Sparrow P & McIvor G (2013) Sentencing drug offenders under the 2003 Criminal Justice Act: Challenges for the probation service. Criminology and Criminal Justice, 13 (3), pp. 298-316.

For the most part the 2003 Criminal Justice Act, which came into effect in England and Wales in April 2005, was accepted by the probation service with relatively little opposition. Given the enormity of its impact acquiescence to this degree of change ought to come as something of a surprise. The 2003 Act changed fundamentally the nature of community supervision, it brought to an end the traditional range of non-custodial penalties and replaced them with a single community order to which sentencers could add any of 12 possible requirements. This paper considers the impact of the 2003 legislation on one particular offender group - drug misusers. Drug misusing offenders have the potential to pose serious difficulties for probation officers; the habitual nature of drug addiction and a tendency toward an irregular lifestyle make drug misusers particularly susceptible to breach. Under the new legislation courts have significantly fewer options available to them when responding to incidents of offender non-compliance. This paper argues that many of the provisions of the 2003 Act together with developments elsewhere in the UK are likely to have impacted disproportionately on those groups whose lifestyles are chaotic and whose routines are incompatible with the terms and conditions of modern day probation practice. It concludes that greater flexibility towards non-compliance, supported by regular and consistent judicial review, would encourage improved rates of compliance and retention in treatment and improved outcomes for offenders.

Criminal Justice Act 2003; drug misuse; enforcement; probation ; Drug abuse; Narcotic addicts;

Criminology and Criminal Justice: Volume 13, Issue 3

Author(s)Sparrow, Paul; McIvor, Gill
Publication date31/07/2013
Publication date online07/08/2012
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