Community order, breach of

Criminal Justice Act 2003, sch.8
Effective from: 04 August 2008

These notes are taken from the Sentencing Guidelines Council’s definitive guideline New Sentences: Criminal Justice Act 2003, published 16 December 2004

Please note, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) includes an option to issue a fine for breach of a community order and to extend a community order. Please consult your legal adviser for further guidance. This guidance will be reviewed in due course.

Options in breach proceedings

When dealing with breaches of community orders for offences committed after 4 April 2005, the court must either:

  • amend the terms of the original order so as to impose more onerous requirements. The court may extend the duration of particular requirements within the order, but it cannot extend the overall length of the original order; or
  • revoke the original order and proceed to sentence for the original offence. Where an offender has wilfully and persistently failed to comply with an order made in respect of an offence that is not punishable by imprisonment, the court can impose up to six months’ custody (Criminal Justice Act 2003, sch.8, para. 9(1)(c)).


  • Having decided that a community order is commensurate with the seriousness of the offence, the primary objective when sentencing for breach of requirements is to ensure that those requirements are completed;
  • a court sentencing for breach must take account of the extent to which the offender has complied with the requirements of the original order, the reasons for the breach, and the point at which the breach has occurred;
  • if increasing the onerousness of requirements, sentencers should take account of the offender’s ability to comply and should avoid precipitating further breach by overloading the offender with too many or conflicting requirements;
  • there may be cases where the court will need to consider re-sentencing to a differently constructed community order in order to secure compliance with the purposes of the original sentence, perhaps where there has already been partial compliance or where events since the sentence was imposed have shown that a different course of action is likely to be effective;
  • where available, custody should be the last resort, reserved for those cases of deliberate and repeated breach where all reasonable efforts to ensure that the offender complies have failed.

Where the original order was made by the Crown Court, breach proceedings must be commenced in that court unless the order provided that any failure to comply with its requirements may be dealt with in a magistrates’ court.

Consult your legal adviser for further guidance when dealing with breach of a community order made in the Crown Court.