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?

Your comments

Veryyyyyyyyy goooddddddddd... it is better for community sevice rather than imprison or giving money... we should respect Ramadan because this is their time to serve God... but if ever reduce the number of hours to be serve for the community...
Posted: July 17, 2009, 18:00

Only crimes which did not result in any harm to society or individual, but could have resulted in some harm should be brought under this law. If the crime already resulted in some harm, then should be dealt with severe punishment.
Posted: July 17, 2009, 16:28

Harassing women in public should not fall under this category. This would only encourage men to harass women more because the punishment is mild. These men will repeat same crime over
Posted: July 17, 2009, 16:10

The law is welcomed on condition that it will be applicable to all, equally without discrimination.
Shahid Hussain
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: July 17, 2009, 15:37

Dear Sir, Whilst this is welcomed as it goes someway towards human rights issues, I am a Muslim and feel that Dubai being a multicultural society and consistent with that should relax its rules of eating in public during Ramadan for people who do not fast or cannot fast. A good Muslim is one who can cope with others around him eating and yet have the resolve to fast.
London,United Kingdom
Posted: July 17, 2009, 11:42

This is a good step from the government.
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: July 17, 2009, 11:05

Sounds wonderful having community service, and maybe a small fine imposed too would be good overall. In USA community service has been going on for years, and it is a positive step for all. Keep up the great work!
Posted: July 17, 2009, 10:30

Well for me as a Christian, I respect our brother Muslims specially I am working and living here in their country..For me drinking and eating in public during the time of Ramadan should be prohibited to all. We should respect the culture of our Muslim brothers..This step should be done a long time ago...and the rehabilitating of the community should start now.
James Nomis Louie R. Ramos
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: July 17, 2009, 10:14

It's indeed a welcome step. The new system will make the offenders feel more responsible to the society. But harrassment of women in public should be viewed as a serious crime, as many believe the UAE is the safest country for women in the region.
Geo Francis
Posted: July 17, 2009, 09:55

I have lived in Dubai for many years before coming back. Best thing about Dubai (I must say UAE) is its innovations. I think this is the best thing they can do for such offenses.
Kulvinder Singh
Posted: July 17, 2009, 09:38

This was the movement which I was long been waiting for. This system should be implemented at once. It is only then, people will value and understand for what they are living for. Community service will serve more benefit than a prison term. This will be a great decision, once implemented in this country.
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: July 17, 2009, 09:30

I think this is a very good idea - something which we (Friends used to discuss about all the time) - however - the category of offences should be more - as many first time offenders do not deserve to be in jail - the hours of community service should depend on the offence. Great idea - when does it come under efffect?
Ras Al Khaimah,UAE
Posted: July 17, 2009, 08:34

I think this is a fantastic move. Abu Dhabi - that's the way to deal with this sort of offences. At the end of the day what you should try to do to anybody in your country is to try and convince that they are part of the society - not aliens. So well done Abu Dhabi for a modern and professional move when it comes to dealing with day to day things in life of all people in the country.
Posted: July 17, 2009, 08:19

This is a very good idea. In my opinion we should add few more offences in to the list - like: quarreling in public, immodest dressing, littering in public places, spitting in public places, deliberate damaging of the parked vehicles, telephone abuse, neglecting the rights of the customers, blocking the paved foot-paths, urinating in the corniche area, crossing the road in red signal(walkers) etc....
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: July 17, 2009, 06:08

This would be the perfect and best effective way to handle minor cases. It's a great help for the community and most of all offenders can help for others to see the consequences of breaking the laws.
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: July 17, 2009, 02:57

This is a very good idea, but harassing women in public should not come under this new system. A person who is convicted of harassing women in public should be severely punished by jail terms even more than 1 year. This crime is against the law, against humanity, against religion, against ethics and against all human standards, therefore a very strict punishment should be applied. I don't think that any harassed lady would be happy to know that the person who attacked her will be let go with couple of hours of education!
Posted: July 17, 2009, 02:06