Press Release

24 July 2012

Court Ruling means offenders can get away with breaking terms of Commuity Payback Orders

Greenock and Inverclyde MSP Duncan McNeil has called on the Scottish Government to urgently close a loophole in Community Payback Orders which emerged following a recent ruling by the Court of Appeal. The ruling means that offenders who have been given Community Payback Orders instead of prison terms will no longer be in breach even if they commit a new crime.

The court ruled that each breach will be considered a new offence and they will only be sentenced on their latest crime, rather than on the fact they have broken a behavioural clause while serving the Community Payback Order.

Community Payback Orders, which came in to force in Scotland in February 2011 and replaced Community Service Orders, Probation Orders and Supervised Attendance Orders, consist of a number of requirements for the offender. For example, the Order might include a requirement to carry out hours of unpaid work in the community or completion of intensive supervision, alcohol, drug or behavioural programmes.

Figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request show that last year there were fifty-five Community Payback Orders issued by Greenock Sheriff Court. There were a total of 77 charges associated with the Orders.

This included six charges for assault, seven for assault to injury and nine for police assault. Fifteen were also issued for threatening and abusive behavior while three related to the carrying of an offensive weapon.

In addition to this, there were three charges relating to the supply of drugs.

Following the court’s ruling Greenock and Inverclyde MSP Duncan McNeil said:

“We need reassurance that when an order is passed, the court, never-mind the offender will respect that order. This is a major loophole in the legislation that needs to be urgently plugged. As it stands, repeat offenders are now able to get away with breaking the terms of the order. Community Payback Orders need to be tough alternatives to jail and this is sending all the wrong messages”.

“The very idea that committing a further crime doesn’t break the Order risks making a mockery of them and will set to undermine victims confidence in the justice system”