News In Focus
“Fast track” mooted for community payback
“Low-level” offenders will be processed and undertaking community service within hours of being sentenced, under plans announced today by the Scottish Government.
The proposals, to be piloted at Glasgow Sheriff Court, include a “one-stop shop” system, under which community service and social work staff are based on the same site, allowing offenders to be assessed, allocated, and then taken directly to their first community payback work squad placement.
Community payback orders come into force tomorrow (1 February) as part of the sentencing reforms that include the new presumption against short periods of imprisonment. The orders will be available to all courts as an alternative to custody, but also in addition or as an alternative to a fine, unlike the community service orders they reoplace.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "Punishment should be tough and justice should be immediate which is why we are piloting this new initiative. The aim is to get these low level offenders out doing manual work to improve communities within hours of being sentenced."
The SNP Government has come under pressure for its backing of community service as a preferable alternative to short prison sentences. Ensuring justice in these low-level cases is swift and tough is seen as crucial in securing public support.
Drive against reoffending
Mr MacAskill continued:"Prison is and always will be the right place for serious and dangerous offenders and recent statistics show we are beginning to get that balance right. Crime is down, serious crime is down, fear of crime is down, the number of people carrying out crime is down, and those that do break the law are being punished swiftly by Scotland's justice system with criminals now being punished through the longest prison sentences in a decade.
"But at the other end of the scale, we need to address Scotland's appalling reoffending rate for low level offenders. These offenders are going in and out of prison, time and time again and committing more crime in communities upon release.”
He added: "All the evidence shows that getting offenders out doing some manual labour in the community works far better than short term prison sentences and actually stops them committing further crimes.
The Scottish Government is committing £25,000 of funding in 2010-11 and £150,000 of funding in 2011-12 to Glasgow Community Justice Authority for the pilot, which will last one year.
A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: "The council can see the benefits of using community reparation as a sentence in appropriate circumstances, both for the communities affected by crime and also the offenders themselves.
"We are very pleased to be involved in the fast track pilot as it will allow us to test the viability of such a scheme and see for ourselves the impact it will have on offenders and the wider community."
It has also been revealed that 33,707 hours of snow clearing were undertaken by low level offenders during the recent adverse weather.