The public can now vote online for community work they want offenders to carry out in their area.

A website enables people to log in to their local probation service and suggest ideas for community work where they live.

Today's development enhances a number of pilot Community Payback schemes which were already up and running, including in Bradford.

Offenders, working alongside Shipley College, have been taking part in the Bowling Hall Allotments Project since September 2007.

They are growing produce to supply homeless hostels and vulnerable groups, as well as gaining qualifications in horticulture.

Criminals who are sentenced to such community orders have to wear bright orange jackets marked with the words Community Payback so the public can see that offenders are paying them back for their crimes.

The Ministry of Justice believes the scheme gives the public a say in punishments and aims to encourage more public involvement in the justice system.

Last year 55,000 community projects were completed, with over six million hours undertaken and work valued at more than £34million completed.

The plan for the public to vote was welcomed by West Yorkshire Probation area manager Andrew Sinclair, who said that more than 330,000 hours of unpaid work for the community was carried out each year by West Yorkshire offenders.

Typical work carried out by offenders in West Yorkshire as part of a community sentence include clearing overgrown parks and gardens; growing produce on allotments for the homeless; decorating community centres and church halls; cooking and serving meals at lunch clubs for the elderly and cleaning and sorting clothes donated to charity shops.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw said: “We are determined to open up the justice system. People have a right to know what offenders are doing in their neighbourhood to repay for their wrongs.”