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New penalty for minor offences in UAE.

Byline: Samir Salama, Associate Editor

Abu Dhabi: Community service, which will shortly replace prison time in certain minor offences, will allow offenders to meet their family and work requirements, a senior official has said.

"Community service will foster a sense of social responsibility in offenders and allow them to improve their self-image through serving the community, but will not restrict the offenders' personal liberty or prevent them from meeting their family or work requirements," said Lieutenant Colonel Saif Obaid Al Khaili, Director, Community Service Department, Interior Ministry.

Mistreating pets, eating or drinking in public during Ramadan, violating the car window tint rule and other such minor offences will be punishable by up to 240 hours of community service under a new law.

A draft law allowing people who commit certain minor offences to repent in public by doing community service instead of spending time in jail or paying fines will take effect immediately," said Al Khaili.

Lieutenat General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, recently told the Federal National Council (FNC) that two types of common offences - traffic violations and antisocial behaviour - could soon be punishable by community service.

"People who face penalties are members of the society, and sometimes prison doesn't achieve the punishment that the Government is seeking, and therefore community service is suggested.

"They will be sent to schools to talk to pupils about their mistakes or will be told to spend time in the emergency rooms at hospitals to see for themselves the danger of their actions."

The law, which addresses the traditional goals of punishment, reparation, restitution and rehabilitation, will not cover offenders who have already been sentenced.

Under the draft law, which won Cabinet approval on March 15, the court will require that the offender complete a specific number of hours of community service (up to 240) within a given time frame (usually not to exceed one year) or sit for rehabilitation courses (up to 160 hours) or both.

The proposal will require the approval of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to become law.

Colonel Mohammad Saif Al Za'abi, deputy director of correctional facilities, Abu Dhabi Police, said community service will not only bring benefits to the offenders, the community and the victim, but also to prisons. It will help ease the burden of the prisons and other correctional facilities.

Lieutenant Colonel Dr Jasim Mohammad Al Antali, professor of criminal law at the Police College, suggested community service should cover a wider spectrum of offences instead of just 20 such offences included in the draft law.

Stressing that enforcing community service would improve the mental state of convicted people and help them integrate back into society without any notable psychological effects.


Fact file Community service of between 20 and 240 hours would be imposed on people who commit 20 minor offences, including harassing women in public, which at present carries a jail term of up to one year, a fine, or both. Eating or drinking in public during Ramadan will carry up to 150 hours of community service or a training course of not more than 150, or both. Violating the 30 per cent car window tint rule will bring up to 150 hours of community service or a training course of not more than 50 hours, or both. Mistreating animals will carry up to 20 hours of community service or a training course of not more than 20 hours, or both. Do you think this would be more effective in rehabilitating people? Which offences do you think can have community service as a form of punishment?

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Jul 17, 2009
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