The provisions for the community payback order have been in force for only a little over a month. The significant work that went into planning and preparing for implementation of community payback orders has so far enabled a smooth procedural transition from the existing system of community sentences.
Recent snow clearing involved on average 1,314 low-level offenders, who worked 33,707 hours altogether. However, the long-term success of community payback orders will lie in their effectiveness in reducing reoffending in Scotland, which short prison sentences signally failed to do. As the member knows, three quarters of offenders imprisoned for three months or less reoffend within two years, whereas two thirds of those who receive community service orders do not.
Can the cabinet secretary justify the £10,000 expense to the taxpayer of keeping the individual who breached the first community payback order in prison due to his refusal to conform to the expectations of the CPO? What will he do if others who are issued with community payback orders exhibit the same pattern of conduct?
I do not interfere in the independence of the judiciary, but I fully support any action that a sheriff feels it is necessary to take. If that is sending somebody who breaches a CPO to prison, so be it. Sheriffs have that right and face that obligation, so they have our full support.
Equally, I remind the member that it costs £40,000 per annum to give somebody free bed and board. It is better that low-level offenders go out and do some hard work to repay the damage that they have done in our communities than that the taxpayer has to contribute to funding them.