Breach of a suspended sentence order
Suspended sentences are custodial sentences where the offender does not have to go to prison provided that they commit no further offences and comply with any requirements imposed. They are used only when the custodial sentence is no longer than two years. A suspended sentence is both a punishment and a deterrent.
The court can impose one or more requirements, including:
- doing unpaid work
- being subject to a curfew
- undertaking a treatment programme for alcohol or drugs
- undertaking other activities focused on rehabilitation of offenders
If the offender is convicted of another offence during the period of the suspended sentence, or they do not comply with the requirements of the order, they will likely have to serve the original custodial term in addition to any sentence they receive for a new offence.
What is the penalty for breaching a suspended sentence order?
The penalty for breaching a suspended sentence order depends on whether the person has committed a new crime or if they have failed to comply with the requirements of the order.
If a person is convicted of another crime during the suspension period, the nature of the new offence will become the court’s primary consideration when assessing the action to be taken on the breach. The court will also look at how far the offender has – or has not – complied with the requirements of the suspended sentence order.
|Multiple and/or more serious offence(s)||Full activation of original custodial sentence|
|New offence similar or less serious than original offence, combined with:
|New offence does not require a custodial sentence||
If a person fails to comply with the requirements of their suspended sentence the court will usually have to activate the original custodial sentence and send the offender to prison. The court will take into account how far the offender has complied with the requirements. If the breach was very minor and the offender’s compliance with the order had otherwise been good, then the court may impose tougher requirements and/or a fine instead of activating the custodial sentence.
Find out more about how penalties for breaching a suspended sentence order are worked out in the sentencing guideline and the different types of sentence the courts can impose.
- Sentencing guidelines for use in magistrates’ courts
- Sentencing guidelines for use in the Crown Court
- Research and resources
- Sentencing Council consultations
- News and articles
- You be the Judge – an interactive guide to sentencing
- Going to court
- Crime, justice and the law on GOV.UK
- Sources of legal advice
It is sometimes reported that an offender has “walked free from court” after sentencing, if they have not been sent to jail. This isn’t true – all non-custodial sentences impose restrictions on the offender. A community sentence can require up to 300 hours from the offender and place them under other restrictions like a curfew.
Read more sentencing myths and find out the facts.
The information on this page is not a complete legal analysis of the offences and is not a substitute for legal advice. The law will be different in Scotland and Northern Ireland.