Community service 'a holiday camp'
Community service has been criticised as a "holiday camp for offenders" by the Government's victims' commissioner after undercover footage showed criminals sitting around drinking tea and smoking illegal drugs.
Louise Casey, who helped develop the community payback scheme, called for a "revolution" in the way it was implemented as policing and justice minister Nick Herbert said criminals were effectively sticking two fingers up at the system.
The remarks, which follow an undercover investigation by ITV1's Tonight programme, come as Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke considers plans for a "rehabilitation revolution" which could see more offenders given community punishments instead of short prison sentences.
Mr Herbert said the examples of lax supervision were "totally unacceptable" and added: "The scenes in this film where offenders effectively stick two fingers up to the system made me extremely angry. There can be no excuses for it."
The Government was planning to reform the system to "ensure consistent standards of community payback across the country, with robust supervision, due punishment and meaningful work", he said.
"We are looking at how private and voluntary sector providers can be involved in running community sentences to make them more rigorous, ensure proper compliance, and deliver better value for the taxpayer."
Ms Casey said: "The public want people punished - of course, we then want them rehabilitated - but we want them punished and some of those people on community payback have committed quite serious offences, some of them including violent offences, yet they're on a kind of a version of a holiday camp."
The Tonight investigation, to be screened on ITV1 at 7.30pm on Thursday, showed criminals on community service doing nothing for long periods, being left unsupervised, and even breaking the law by smoking cannabis.
Footage filmed over six weeks at projects in Manchester, Nottingham and Derbyshire, showed a series of serious problems with the schemes.
Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "Valuable police time is being spent dealing with repeat offenders who manipulate the system and are not deterred from doing so because of inadequate sanctions and solutions. Justice is not being done."