When an offender is given a custodial sentence of between 14 days and two years (or six months in the magistrates’ court), the judge or magistrates may choose to suspend the sentence for up to two years. This means that the offender does not go to prison immediately but is given the chance to stay out of trouble and comply with up to 13 requirements set by the court.

These requirements could include:

  • doing unpaid work
  • being subject to a curfew
  • undertaking a treatment programme for alcohol or drugs, and
  • being subject to a rehabilitation activity requirement.

If the offender does not comply with the requirements, or is convicted of another offence during the the time of their suspended sentence, they are likely to serve the original custodial term as well as the sentence they get for the new offence.

In 2019, 40,000 offenders had a suspended sentence order imposed, representing three per cent of offenders sentenced. (These statistics are taken from the Ministry of Justice’s criminal justice statistics publications.)