The most commonly used community sanction or non custodial penalty in Ireland is a fine. In deciding on the amount of a fine, a Judge must consider the offender's financial means and ensure that the fine is in proportion to the seriousness of the offence. The maximum fine which can be imposed in the District Court is limited by either the statute creating the offence or the Criminal Procedure Act 1967. Failure to pay a fine can result in up to 90 days imprisonment. Compensation orders are the next most frequently imposed financial penalty and require the offender to pay financial compensation to the victim in order to repay the harm caused by the offence. Poor-box donations are the least frequently imposed financial penalty by the courts and require the offender to make a donation to a nominated charity as an alternative to receiving a conviction.
Probation supervision orders, supervision during deferment of a penalty and community service orders are also commonly imposed in the District Court. The Probation Service supervises offenders who are the subject of such orders. The Probation Service is an agency of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform which aims to reduce criminality and increase public safety by managing offenders in the community, challenging offending behaviour and facilitating offender re-integration. A structured statutory provision for the supervision of offenders in the community is available in the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 which also provides the foundation for probation work in Ireland.
Probation supervision orders involve the offender remaining under the supervision of a probation officer for a period of time decided by the court and may include extra conditions, such as curfews and restriction on association, depending on the circumstances of the case. Judges also tend to order supervision during the deferment of a penalty to provide the offender with an opportunity to demonstrate a willingness to respond to a particular intervention. Community service orders require the offender to do unpaid work in the community so as to repay the damage resulting from their offending behaviour.
Other options available to the court include adjourning the case, dismissing the case and peace bonds. There are also a number of new community based sanctions which are available to young offenders under the Children Act 2001.
For further information on the use of community based penalties in Ireland please visit the Courts Service website http://www.courts.ie, the Probation Service website at http://www.probation.ie and/or see the statistics below.
(Source: Probation and Welfare Service website)