Community Payback Orders

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 16 May 2019.

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Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

3. To ask the Scottish Government how it ensures that community payback orders are fully completed. (S5O-03240)

Photo of Ash Denham Ash Denham Scottish National Party

Delivering community payback orders and ensuring completion of those orders are the responsibility of the relevant local authority. Some 70 per cent of orders are successfully completed, as reported in the criminal justice social work statistics for 2017-18, and individuals will have cases reviewed in court if progress is not satisfactory. Around seven million hours of unpaid work have been carried out since community payback orders were introduced, delivering real benefits for communities.

Updated CPO practice guidance was published in January. The guidance supports effective practice and reiterates the importance of successful completion. The Scottish Government is working with national and local partners, including Community Justice Scotland, to help ensure that orders are implemented as effectively as possible.

Funding of more than £100 million for criminal justice social work supports effective delivery of community sentences, which have helped achieve a 19-year low in reconviction rates.

Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

The latest facts show that a shocking three in 10 community payback orders go ignored. Those are real offenders who have committed serious crimes going unpunished on the SNP’s watch. How can the SNP Government justify its plans to put thousands more criminals on to those orders when it is currently failing to deliver?

Photo of Ash Denham Ash Denham Scottish National Party

Community payback orders are not just abandoned—70 per cent of orders are successfully completed, and individuals will have their cases reviewed in court if progress is not satisfactory. The court will determine the most appropriate next action, including a custodial disposal or another order. We expect local authorities, which are responsible for compliance, to prioritise the completion of CPOs. CPOs are a robust option that is focused on paying back to communities. We know that they work—individuals who are released from a custodial sentence of 12 months or less are reconvicted almost twice as often as those who are given a CPO.

We know that at least the Conservatives in England are looking to Scotland’s smart justice model. Short-term sentences are not effective and community payback orders are a smart justice, evidence-led alternative to custody. [

Interruption

.]

The Presiding Officer:

I ask members not to have conversations while other members are asking questions or while the minister is responding.

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

The Scottish Tories claim that the Scottish Government’s prison reforms have meant that 10,000 serious criminals are back on the street. I do not know whether that came from the Tory minister for numberacy or somebody else. Not only is it a ludicrously false statement, as the figure is greater than the entire prison population of Scotland, but it is at odds with the position of their colleagues in Westminster. Does the minister think that it is important to point out that the justice secretary David Gauke is on record as supporting our smart justice approach of extending the presumption against ineffective short sentences?

Photo of Ash Denham Ash Denham Scottish National Party

I do.

“I want a smarter justice system that reduces repeat crime by providing robust community alternatives to ineffective short prison sentences—supporting offenders to turn away from crime for good.”

Those are not my words; they are the words of the Conservative Justice Secretary David Gauke in today’s

Guardian.

Extending the presumption against short sentences in Scotland will help to ensure that prison is used only where the judiciary decide that it is necessary, having considered the alternatives available to them. The presumption that we discussed earlier is not a ban; it is part of a broader preventative approach to reducing victimisation that has contributed to a 19-year low in reconviction rates.

The Presiding Officer:

I remind members that questions 4, 6 and 8 will be grouped.