Paying back to society

‘Overwhelmingly positive’ response to community sentences.

People on Community Payback Orders (CPOs) carried out more than 1.3 million hours of unpaid work in communities across Scotland in 2014/15, according to a new report published today.

The annual summary of local authority reports also found that unpaid work being carried out by people on CPOs had received an ‘overwhelmingly positive’ response from local communities benefitting from the work. A range of beneficiaries from charity shop staff to the elderly praised the high standard of work and positive attitude of people on CPOs.

CPO teams have been carrying out a range of work in communities including repairing fallen gravestones, cleaning unsightly graffiti from streets and stairwells, helping local charities and groups and carrying out renovation work to buildings. During recent flooding in the north-east, teams supported the clean-up effort in communities by filling sandbags, clearing debris and planting natural flood defences to prevent future flooding.

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, launched the annual report during a visit to Brake the Cycle project in Edinburgh today (Thursday) where he met people on CPOs who recondition old bicycles and donate them to schools and community groups.

Mr Matheson said:

“It is encouraging to see that the number of CPOs imposed by the courts continues to rise since their introduction five years ago. This report clearly demonstrates that CPOs have a huge impact, both on our local communities and on the individuals who can use them to turn their lives around.

“Short sentences do little to reduce reoffending in our communities. Community sentences help to reduce reoffending by supporting the underlying causes of offending and ensure people pay back for the harm their crimes have caused with hard work in the community.”

“This report highlights the excellent work being done across local authorities to deliver robust and credible CPOs which are delivering real benefits for our communities and are helping to reduce reoffending.

“This isn’t about being ‘soft’ or ‘tough’, it is about being ‘smart’ and acting on the clear evidence in front of us. And the evidence shows our approach is working. Recorded crime in Scotland is at a 41-year low and reconviction rates in Scotland are at their lowest level in 16 years.

Councillor Ricky Henderson, Health, Social Care and Housing Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Brake the Cycle is a great example of people on community payback making a positive contribution through their unpaid work, as well as giving them the opportunity to learn new skills.

“They collect unwanted or damaged bicycles, which might otherwise go to landfill, develop skills in bicycle repair and pass on bicycles in good repair to schools and community groups who might otherwise not have access to bicycles. Those who receive the bicycles benefit by being active through cycling, which brings many health benefits, including tackling the risks of obesity. So the project contributes not only to reducing reoffending, but has health and environmental benefits for the community.”