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Criminals ‘let off more than 650,000 hours of community service’

MSP Jamie Greene has hit out after figures showed more than 650,000 hours of unpaid community service have not been carried out (Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA)
MSP Jamie Greene has hit out after figures showed more than 650,000 hours of unpaid community service have not been carried out (Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA)

More than 650,000 hours of unpaid community service have not been carried out, new figures reveal.

The statistics were released by the Scottish Conservatives following a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to local authorities in Scotland.

The party has accused SNP and Labour-run councils of letting offenders off the hook as at least 669,838 hours’ worth of unpaid work are yet to be completed as part of community service.

The unfinished work, issued by judges as part of a Community Payback Order (CPO), equates to around 76 years, the Tories have said.

Scottish Conservative justice secretary Jamie Greene hit out at the figures on the sentences, which are issued as an alternative to prison, saying “dangerous criminals” are not facing appropriate consequences for their offences.

According to Criminal Proceedings in Scotland statistics for 2019/20, eight criminals convicted of homicide were given CPOs, along with one person convicted of rape or attempted rape.

And 106 people convicted under the Domestic Abuse Act 2018 were given community service, the statistics show.

Mr Greene said: “This is an absolutely shocking figure that is caused in part by the SNP’s obsession with emptying Scotland’s prisons and dishing out community sentences instead.

“It is bad enough that rapists and domestic abusers are being handed community sentences to begin with, but the fact that the equivalent of 76 years’ worth of unpaid work is outstanding will stun victims of crime.”

The MSP also took aim at some of the activities individuals are assigned on community service, and said the punishments make a “mockery” of the suffering experienced by victims.

The FOI data revealed that some of the unpaid work assigned to individuals included making bird tables and building bee hotels.

He added: “Making bird tables or bee hotels is not an appropriate punishment for some of the horrific crimes these criminals have committed.

“Scottish Conservative councillors will ensure criminals are made to carry out proper punishments as part of their community sentences.”

The Scottish Conservatives have called for tougher community sentence tasks and are demanding they are always carried out in full.

In 2021, the Scottish Government wrote off 262,153 hours of unpaid work as a result of an “overwhelmed” system caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

An SNP spokesman said: “The Tories have no credibility on justice issues and their dog-whistle rhetoric is utterly shameful.

“If they’re so tough on crime, why are the Scottish Tories silent about their own Prime Minister – the first PM to receive a police fine while in office.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “Sentencing in individual cases is always for the court with the presumption against short sentences, meaning a court can if they wish continue to impose a short custodial sentence in any given case.

“The justice system holds those who commit offences to account and community-based sentences have helped contribute to record low reconviction rates in recent years.

“The pandemic has been an unprecedented public health challenge. This was recognised by Parliament when last year it approved legislation to allow community orders to be varied where necessary, as well as regulations earlier this year to reduce unpaid work hours.

“This is to address the unavoidable build-up of unpaid work resulting from essential public health restrictions and the rationale for the regulations was clearly set out at the time. Orders imposed for domestic abuse, sexual offending and stalking were excluded.

“The justice system has continued to operate effectively despite the challenges of the pandemic and those on community orders will still serve the majority of their sentences.”

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