ONE former offender has told how community payback turned his life around, as Wiltshire Probation Trust looks back on 40 years of the scheme.

In the area served by Wiltshire Probation Trust, in the last year, offenders completed 61,472 free hours of labour in the community. This equates to £373,750 worth of work, if calculated against the current adult minimum wage of £6.08 per hour.

Nationally, hundreds of thousands of offenders have worked millions of hours picking up litter, clearing brambles, painting fences and scrubbing off graffiti in a bid to make their communities a better place to live.

Craig, from Swindon, completed 300 hours of unpaid work at Sue Ryder charity shop and said he has now turned his life around with Wiltshire Probation Trust.

He said: “Doing community payback actually helps the offender to realise what they have done and caused. This could be out in the open cutting grass or painting walls or in a shop.

“I’ve realised that there is a stigma attached to being on community payback and a lot of people have strong opinions about it.

“But I feel that once the offender has attended all the hours he or she should, has put the work in, gained some experience, learnt from the past, moved forward in a positive and productive manner, then the stigma attached should hopefully fade away and I for one hope it does.

“Myself, I did my hours, did everything that was asked of me, and because of this my offender manager saw something in me.

“They put me forward for a job with Probation and now I’m really enjoying doing my job and helping other offenders.”

Community service was introduced across England and Wales by the 1970 Wootton Report on alternatives to prison.

The order was popular with the public, who welcomed the idea of criminals ‘making amends’, and with politicians, who even then were mindful of the spiralling prison population and keen to appear tough on crime. And magistrates have always welcomed the idea of a punishment visible to the community.

Simon Cope, community payback manager at Wiltshire Probation Trust said: “We are proud of the part we have played in providing this service to the courts for the last 40 years. In Wiltshire we engage with local people and try to ensure that offenders make direct reparation to the communities against which they have offended.

“Through our community payback projects, we aim to both reduce the fear of crime felt by members of the public and also reduce re-offending.

“We do this by helping offenders to acquire new work and life related skills, increase their empathy with victims and thus grow their sense of community responsibility.”