Sentencing judges have a choice from 19 different types of community service including helping others to memorise the holy Quran and carrying out work at petrol stations, according to a decree providing further detail on last year's move to allow alternative punishments to prison terms for petty crimes.
The decree of the Council of Ministers No 41 of 2017 on the identification of community service work issued by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, lists 19 categories of community service.
They will replace jail sentences but only those that do not exceed six months in length.
In March, three men, who fed a cat to hungry dogs and filmed the killing on video, were ordered by the Ruler of Dubai to clean Dubai Zoo for the three months and in February a group of men arrested for reckless driving in City Walk have been ordered by the Ruler of Dubai to clean the city's streets for four hours each day for a month.
The categories are:
1. Memorising or helping others memorise parts of the holy Quran
2. Care centres for individuals of determination (special needs) work
3. Nursing homes work
4. Juvenile detention centres work
5. Nurseries and day-care centres work
6. Mother & child or women society centres work
7. Traffic directorates work
8. Ambulance services or transporting casualties work
9. Civil defence tasks.
10. Charity drives and humanitarian campaigns work
11. Adult literacy centres work
12. Cleaning and maintaining public areas and facilities, including roads, parks, public squares, beaches and wildlife reserves
13. Mosques: cleaning and maintenance
14. Providing support to various events and activities
15. Foodstuff quality control work
16. Public parks and wildlife reserves: gardening and maintenance
17. Zoos and wildlife reserves: looking after animals and feeding them
18. Loading and unloading cargo containers at ports
19. Petrol stations work
According to legal Consultant Hassan Elhais, of Al Rowad Advocates, community service was decided and approved in article 120 from the 2016 federal law No 7, but the nature of the community service works were not stated.
The article also states that the work should be paid: “A convict can be obligated to do a community service punishment, the nature of the community service is to be determined through a decree issued by the minister of justice in coordination with the minister of Interior and the minister of labour and Social affairs provided that the convict receives quarter of the wage. This obligation shall only be imposed in cases of misdemeanours to replace imprisonment or fine and the period of this obligation should not be less than ten days and not more than one year.”
Mr Elhais said that "this means that even though you are being punished, you are paid and most importantly, you are given the chance to repay your debt to society and to learn first hand what it means to be a productive member of the community".
He added that the move invests in youth’s true qualities and potential instead of leaving them to jail where they can meet criminals dong hard-time and be at risk of becoming one themselves.
“Several countries apply community service, and in our line of work, we know of cases in which community service punishment came as a life-changing detour for some,” said Mr Elhais.
Lawyer Awatif Mohammed stressed the importance of this move and hoped that the definition of the categories meant that defendants will be given punishments related to the nature of the offence they have committed.
“I strongly believe that when cleaning streets one had abused in racing or stunt driving, or working directly with patients, some of whom might be victims of traffic accidents similar to accidents caused by any of these defendants, the level of awareness among offenders will be increased,” she said.
Feelings of guilt and remorse are strong deterrents that are sometimes overlooked, Ms Awatif added.
"These feelings will be most certainly provoked when offenders are faced with the grave outcomes of their misconduct when they are ordered to do community work which will eventually result in reforming them and positively changing their behaviours," she said.
Lawyer Hisham Hassan explained that as per law, the implementation of the community service is overseen by prosecutors who receive periodic reports on the offenders' performance. “If the convict fails to perform the community service well, prosecutors are allowed as per law to refer him to court in order to face a trial and be given a jail sentence,” said Mr Hassan.