Background and offences
Louise is a 27 year old female who, prior to this current offence had no previous convictions. She was convicted at the local Magistrates Court of Benefit Fraud to the value of £15,000 and sentenced to a 12 months Community Order including a 24 week Curfew Order 7pm – 7am and 250 hours Unpaid Work.
The circumstances of the offence are related to a period in Louise’s’ life when she was in an intermittent relationship with her partner due to his violent behaviour. She was in receipt of benefits but did not declare that he occasionally co-habited with her and that he continued to support her and their two children financially.
When Louise appeared at court, she was six months pregnant with her third child, experiencing a high level of stress resulting in increased severity of psoriasis and anxiety problems.
Louise had an obligation to complete Unpaid Work and was referred to the WCP by her Offender Manager. By this time she had her third child. There were several issues for the Offender Manager and Louise to overcome. She had three children; a baby who was breast feeding, a two year old child who attended nursery in town and a five year old who attend the local school in her home village some distance away. As a new mother, she was extremely reticent to leave her baby with anyone and became quite distressed at the thought of doing so. In addition, Louise’s partner worked away from home for long periods and she had no family living locally. It was therefore difficult to achieve attendance on a traditional work party and, as her crime was of an acquisitive nature, she was not deemed suitable for a charity shop placement.
The WCP was able to facilitate Unpaid Work for Louise as the baby was placed in the WCP crèche and Louise could readily access her child in order to feed. The WCP could offer flexible working hours to fit around the children and Louise was able to complete her hours over three days each week. The WCP is able to manage any risks as staff are competent in managing this client group.
The WCP assess women and identify their strengths and weaknesses. Through this process it was identified that she had much to offer and that she is was very motivated to make amends for her crime. Louise was offered the opportunity to develop a new initiative at the WCP, an in-house shop selling donated items to the other women service users. Louise grasped this opportunity and, as a result of her drive and initiative, the shop was so successful we took this forward into a town centre retail outlet to raise funds for the sustainability of the project. To support this, she is attending an accredited course of study in setting up a business.
Louise has evidenced much in terms of an increase in her self esteem and worth, alongside learning new skills in enterprise whilst completing her Unpaid Work.
Louise received a high end, intensive sentence and was at high risk of custody. Had she not have had the opportunity to take advantage of the WCP and been sentenced to serve her sentence in a mother and baby unit, she would have missed this opportunity of advancement, of working in her own community and above all, been unable to support her children without the need for them to be taken into care.
This is a real example of the benefits of community sentencing which is able to deliver the control, punishment and rehabilitation required as a criminal justice disposal whilst taking into account of the best outcome for the women and her children.