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Community Service Experience

C J 1980

Well-known member
Good morning

As a convicted HRO, I had the misfortune of falling into the Probation Service's lap when I was convicted last year.

Because my lower reading was 113, I was given 100 hours community service.

I wanted to start a thread to find out how people on here experienced the Probation Service and community service (CS).

On reflection I was quite disappointed with the Probation Service and my first contact with them was via a private consultation during my court appearance. The lady, I spoke to seemed pleasant enough but I made the fatal mistake of divulging too much about my personal circumstances and my problems leading up to my arrest for drink driving. When we returned back into the Court room, the probation lady stood up and addressed the bench. She then told them everything that had been said during our private conversation which I did feel was a breach of confidence.

Upon conclusion of my court appearance, I was given an appointment to attend the local probation office the following week. I expected to have a private 'one-to-one' with a member of staff. I arrived for my appointment 30 minutes early and was told by the receptionist to take a seat. The reception area was small and there were only four seats which were all taken. Now at that time, there were several males in reception who were clearly 'clients' of the probation, much like myself who was now a client too! Without stereotyping, these males looked like your typical drug users/undesirables that you would probably cross the street to avoid. I took a seat at the foot of the stairs as there was nowhere else to sit and over the course of 30 minutes, the reception filled up with twelve males. One of them sat next to me, blocking the stairs and he looked like he had been sleeping rough.

At precisely 2pm, the time of my appointment, two members of staff entered reception and called out a list of names. I was called and I stood up and followed everyone else who had been waiting in reception into a large room which was clearly the staff ref room. One of the probation staff then called out our names one by one and handed us a pack which contained forms we had to fill in. I then sat in silence and began to slowly & careful complete each form that was detailing personal information. This was while other clients were sat around me - one was peering over my shoulder watching what I was writing!!!

The majority of the other males in the room were there on prison release/licence and only had a couple of forms to complete before they got up & left. Myself and a handful of other males had to fill out more paperwork as we were there for community service.

There were several questions I had for Probation so I politely put my hand up and queried something. The male member of staff was quite abrupt with me and he said firmly 'speak to your probation officer'. Upon completing my forms I was allowed to keep a couple of sheets and a small card that would be a written record of my hours.

Now during my court appearance, the probation officer in the court had advised me that I would be allocated a placement in a charity shop or a community centre which is common for most drink drivers. However, when I was in the probation office I was told I had to return to the office at 8.30 the following morning to go out on a 'Chain Gang' which I was horrified by.

I am not 100% sure about the structure of the Probation Service but I fell under the umbrella of what is known as a CRC (Community Rehabilitation Company). My appointed probation officer worked for this company and upon leaving the probation offices, I made several phone calls to try & speak to her as she was based in Liverpool.

I eventually spoke to a male member of staff who organised placements & was quite helpful. I explained my circumstances and he then said he would look into it & an hour later he rung me back and apologised for the fact my case file had been overlooked and I was in fact eligible for a CS placement at a community centre. He told me he would sort this out ASAP and I wasn't to report at the probation office for the 8.30 chain gang appointment.

The following Monday I reported for work at a local community centre which would be my new work place until I completed the 100 hours. Because I was unemployed - I was told I had to work four days a week (Monday to Thursday) until my time was done. This wasn't a problem as I had actually lost my job because of the drink driving arrest. I then knuckled down and blasted the 100 hours in three weeks.

The manager of the community centre was firm but fair and while I was there I was given quite a few chores which included cleaning some of the rooms and setting up tables & chairs for things like group meetings that took place everyday (Weight Watchers, Art classes for example). I then worked in a kitchen where I prepared food and helped the Chef cook the lunchtime menu in the cafe. I then waited in tables and helped out with the cleaning and tidying up afterwards. Most days, I finished by 3.30pm.

I only had contact with my probation officer twice over the telephone and I never met her in person. All I will say is that she was a little on the inept side.

It was quite sad when I did finish my time at the community centre because most of the people there were sorry to see me go. I got a couple of hugs and handshakes from people I had got to know. I haven't been back there since, mainly because I have moved on since then.

If anyone is presently in a situation where they are looking at community service following a drink drive conviction please take note of the following -

- Be mindful of what you disclose to the probation officer in court, such as sensitive information about yourself.

- If you are previous good character, the probation service should get you a community centre placement. The 'Chain Gang' placements are generally for people who are prolific offenders and I have heard horror stories about this type of CS.

- Please ensure you get your hourly card signed up and updated every day. A few other CS people made the mistake of not keeping their score card up to date and therefore may have ended up doing more CS hours than they should have done.

- Ensure you are never late for CS, keep yourself busy, only leave at the correct finishing time and ensure everyone on your placement knows what you are doing & where you are.

- Please avoid personal appointments (doctor's or Job Centre) during CS time. Even if you have a written confirmation of the appointment and you get permission from the manager of the CS placement, the probation people can still breach you. If you get put in breach of CS you go straight back to court!

I always look back on my Community Service both with positive and negative views. I did enjoy working with some really down to earth people but I never trusted the probation people and I am glad I got them off my back by completing my hours very quickly.

My whole experience of being convicted of drink driving is one that I will live with now for the rest of my life but I do believe I have turned a corner in the last 16 months and my time off the road has not been quite as bad as I thought it would be.

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