Page last updated at 23:01 GMT, Sunday, 29 March 2009 00:01 UK

Public gets community service say

Man wearing bright vest
The most popular suggestions for community service will be used

Local communities in England and Wales are to be given the chance to decide what punishments offenders sentenced to community service orders should face.

Residents in more than 50 trial areas will be asked to choose online from five projects, with the most popular adopted by the Probation Service.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw said people had a right to know how offenders were repaying their "wrongs".

The Tories called for "proper sentences" rather than "gimmicks".

More than 55,000 people convicted of crime are sentenced to community service every year in England and Wales.

A recent poll by the Ministry of Justice found most people wanted those doing community service to carry out work such as removing graffiti or picking up litter.

The trials will form part of the government's Community Payback scheme, which has introduced high-visibility jackets for offenders when they are doing community service outdoors.

It's crucial that the public... has a say in what community punishments offenders receive
Justice Secretary Jack Straw

Each trial area will have its own five projects to choose from - in Leicester, for example, clearing up pathways or removing graffiti will compete with creating a sensory garden for disabled people or cleaning up a canal.

Mr Straw said: "It's crucial that the public - the taxpayer - has a say in what community punishments offenders receive.

"People have a right to know what offenders are doing in their neighbourhood to repay for the wrongs committed.

"We are determined to open up the justice system. Recent steps to do this include the appointment of a dedicated Victims Champion, giving distinctive orange jackets to offenders and now ensuring the public knows they have a say in punishing offenders."

Shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve said: "The public wants to see justice done with proper sentences that fit the crime, not gimmicks from ministers who have undermined the criminal justice system by releasing prisoners early and relying too heavily on ineffective out of court sanctions."

The areas taking part in the trial are:

Barking & Dagenham, Barnsley, Birmingham, Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Bolton, Bradford, Brent, Bristol, Caerphilly, Camden, Cardiff, Doncaster, Greenwich, Hackney, Halton, Hammersmith & Fulham, Haringey, Islington, Kingston upon Hull, Kirklees, Knowsley, Lambeth, Leicester, Lewisham, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Newcastle upon Tyne, Newham, Newport, North East Lincolnshire, Northampton , Nottingham, Nuneaton and Bedworth, Oldham, Peterborough, Preston, Redcar & Cleveland, Rochdale, Rotherham, Salford, Sandwell, Sheffield, Slough, South Tyneside, Southampton, St Helens, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland, Swansea, Tameside, Thanet, Tower Hamlets, Wakefield, Walsall, Waltham Forest, Wolverhampton.

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