CONVICTED criminals have carried out almost 40,000 hours of unpaid work in Hampshire in the past few months.

Offenders have spent large amounts of time benefitting their local communities by removing graffiti, renovating buildings and working in charity shops.

New figures show that people taking part in a scheme known as Community Payback completed 37,224 hours of unpaid work over a six-month period.

With the national wage standing at £7.83 that equates to more than £291,000 of services delivered.

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company (HIOW CRC) is responsible for supervising offenders on Community Payback and ensuring they comply with their sentence.

HIOW CRC manages more than 11,000 offenders at any one time, with an average of 900 new cases each month.

A spokesman said: "Those ordered to take on unpaid work participate in a range of manual tasks, including removing graffiti, litter picking, clearing parks and cemeteries, renovating buildings and work in charity shops.

"Magistrates or judges can sentence offenders to carry out anything from 40 to 300 hours of unpaid work as part of their order. "Community Payback must include a minimum of a day’s work – lasting at least seven hours – once a week.

"People can also be sentenced to intensive Community Payback orders, which mean they must complete 28 hours of work every week."

Community sentences are imposed for offences such as damaging property, benefit fraud and assault.

They are often handed out by judges and magistrates if an offender is appearing in court for the first time or it is thought such a sentence may be more likely than a jail term to stop someone reoffending.

Stephen Czajewski is the chief operating officer of HIOW CRC.

He said: “Community payback provides a tough, effective and visible punishment requiring people to undertake challenging work while giving something back to communities where they live.

“It also provides an opportunity for people to turn their experience into a positive one by picking up new skills that can help them towards paid employment and leading more stable, positive and crime-free lives.”

HIOW CRC wants to hear from anyone who thinks their area would benefit from being involved in a Community Payback project.