Convicted crooks are still being allowed to do community service from home because of Covid fears – with jobs including knitting hats and scarves for refugees.
Despite legal restrictions being lifted a year ago, more than a quarter of a million hours of such sentences have been completed by convicted criminals in the comfort of their own homes this year.
All Covid restrictions were lifted completely for England in July 2021 but official Government figures seen by the Daily Star Sunday show that for the year 2021/22, a total of 274,324 hours of court-ordered unpaid work were delivered by lags from home.
And this figure is up from 2020 – at the height of lockdown laws when the pandemic was at its worst.
Statistics from the 2020/21 year show 59,314 hours of community service was completed at home during the year we were all banned from leaving homes.
The Government have called the ‘from home’ community service Independent Working Projects and say that a range of “worthwhile” work has come from them.
Kit Malthouse, Tory Minister for Policing, said convicted lags have even been knitting hats as part of the scheme.
He said: “Projects have included a range of robust and practical tasks such as producing hats and scarves for Ukrainian refugees and making face masks and PPE for care homes and charities during the pandemic.
“Innovative schemes such as these help support charitable causes and ensure those who break the law are punished. Safeguards are in place to ensure that offenders complete the project to a high standard within a set time period.”
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But campaigners say there is no reason criminals should be allowed to hide behind closed doors, with work in the community always “available”.
Sarah Bridges from Community First Base, a community group in Sussex, said: “There is an abundance of work that needs doing, and now Covid is over, these measures should be stopped.
“It isn’t clear why this has been going on this year, with restrictions having been lifted a while ago, but it is not all cases of community service.
“Community service is about making the area you live in better, as a sorry to those you have affected.
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“It is also important for the community to see justice in action, and see people giving back. So the scheme allowing this to happen behind closed doors is not ideal.”
The Government has confirmed work is ongoing now to stop the scheme altogether, with the “community service from home” project slated to be halted within the next three weeks.
Speaking to Parliament, Mr Malthouse continued: “ The Independent Working Projects are currently only being deployed in a limited and targeted way to support our recovery from COVID-19. We will be conducting a review of independent working projects in the summer with a view to phase out their use completely by September.”
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