Page last updated at 02:10 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 03:10 UK

Public pick community punishments

Man wearing bright vest
Offenders doing community service must wear high visibility orange vests

The results of a public vote to choose which community punishments offenders will face have been announced.

A total of 18,000 people in 54 areas of England and Wales have chosen their preferred Community Payback scheme in an online poll.

The projects include renovating parks, ponds and tow paths by removing graffiti and picking up litter.

The government said communities should have a say in what offenders were doing "to repay for the wrongs committed".

The three-week vote was part of the "Justice Seen, Justice Done" campaign to raise awareness of so-called Community Payback.

Those taking part in outdoor activities have to wear branded high visibility orange vests to draw attention to their offender status.

'Taking control'

One of the places chosen by the voters was Fawdon Park in Newcastle, which has been blighted by anti-social behaviour and vandalism.

Local councillor David Faulkner told the BBC that work on the park had already begun and the benefits were clear.

It is crucial that the public should have a say in the community punishments offenders receive
Justice Secretary Jack Straw

"I think the very fact that it's more attractive is drawing people in," he said, "And the more people use it, the more you're not ceding control of the park to people who are going to cause damage."

Other places chosen for improvement include Brookvale and Witton Lakes in Birmingham, the Grand Union Canal in Brent, north London, and the Plymouth Woods area of Cardiff.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw said the vote was part of government efforts "to open up the justice system".

"It is crucial that the public should have a say in the community punishments offenders receive and that they have a right to know what offenders are doing in their neighbourhood to repay for the wrongs committed," he said.

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

The Conservative Party has criticised the use of "ineffective out-of-court sanctions" and demanded "proper sentences" instead.



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