Criminals dodged over 1.5 million hours of community service last year

Shadow justice secretary Steve Reed delivers a speech at Parliament Chamber in London on the rule of law. He condemn the "scourge" of anti-social behaviour, warning that offenders need to face "consequences. Picture date: Friday February 17, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Labour. Photo credit should read: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

CRIMINALS dodged over 1.5 million hours of community service last year, alarming stats reveal.

The revelation comes as both Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer prepare to make anti-social behaviour a crunch battleground at the next election.

Shadow justice secretary Steve Reed has vowed to get tough on crime

Labour, who uncovered the numbers, accused the government of being “missing in action in the fight against crime”.

Louts guilty of anti-social behaviour and other low level offences are ordered to scrub graffiti and pick up rubbish as part of their community payback punishment.

But Ministry of Justice figures show offenders bunked off 1.42m hours of community service between April and December last year.

London had the worst record, with crooks missing nearly 225,000 hours.

From April 2021 to April 2022 – the last full year we have numbers for – louts dodged 1.66m hours of community payback.

This was up nearly 15 per cent on the year before, when 1.44m hours were skipped.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary Steve Reed said: “The Conservatives are missing in action in the fight against crime.  

“Everyone deserves to feel safe and secure in their community. But under the Conservatives, anti-social thugs are left to riot without facing any consequence.

“No wonder so many victims feel frustrated and powerless as they watch their neighbourhoods spiral downwards into crime.”

Labour has unveiled a crime policy blitz as they try to pitch themselves as the party of law and order.

They have vowed to introduce new clean up squads for fly-tippers and to hit parents of unruly teens with sanctions.

The Government is also preparing to unveil their own anti-social behaviour crackdown within weeks.

This could include new powers for cops to undertake spot drug tests – as revealed by HOAR on Sunday last month.

Nitrous Oxide – known as laughing gas – could also be banned and community service rules toughened up, under proposals being considered by ministers.

Justice minister Damian Hinds said: “Community Payback was severely impacted by the pandemic and the resulting court backlogs.

“This included projects and organisations that provided placements being closed, along with the social distancing rules making it difficult for delivery to continue as normal.

“This Government has committed to invest an additional £93m in Community Payback over the next three years.

“This is so that we ramp up delivery to 8m hours per year, focussing on outdoor projects that help to improve public spaces, ensuring that people can see justice being done.”