Consultation on offenders’ work

LOCAL communities are to have a say on the type of work they want to see low-level offenders carrying out in their areas.

Under plans which came into force across the country last week, communities will be able to consult with their local authorities to nominate local priorities before asking for offenders to work on them as part of their community sentence.

This could include anything from cleaning up to graffiti, clearing litter, renovating elderly care homes or restoring fallen gravestones,

Tayside Criminal Justice Authority (TCJA) is already discussing with Angus Council how the community consultation process will work.

Last week’s announcement by justice secretary Kenny MacAskill was backed by additional funding to be allocated to CJAs across Scotland to help deliver the new Community Payback Order scheme.

The scheme has been introduced under the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 as an alternative for short prison sentences of three months or less, although sheriffs will still have the option of jailing someone for three months if they wish. The presumption, however, will be for offenders to undertake hard manual labour to pay back the communities they have harmed.

Community payback disposals will also be supported by action to address offenders’ underlying problems which may contribute to committing crime, such as alcohol, drug or mental health issues.

The proposals are intended to improve public say on the type of manual labour they want to see low level offenders doing.

Most of the funding allocated to the scheme will be used for specific projects to enhance facilities which communities suggest should be improved, but which might otherwise have not been able to go ahead.

The rest will be used to buy specialist equipment such as graffiti removal tools or larger capital equipment to be used in more innovative work activities.

Tayside CJA Convener Helen Wright said: “Low-level offenders will be paying back communities by doing work to benefit the communities they have harmed. We will use these offenders as a resource to make improvements to local communities as pay back for the damage they have done.

“Communities and victims will now have a greater say on the type of manual labour they want to see low-level offenders carrying. This will mean that communities across Tayside can identify local work which needs to be undertaken and have offenders out doing them for the benefit of the community.

“It may be that streets scrawled in graffiti or pavements covered in chewing gum are targeted by local residents for action and community service work squads sent in to clean them up. Or it may be that there is a need for marker posts along a coastal path to protect walkers, as was undertaken in Arbroath.

“Now, Tayside’s communities will be given the chance to choose and there will be a statutory obligation for local authorities to consult the community on the type of work that low-level offenders should be carrying out in the area as part of their punishment.”

Victim Support Scotland chief executive David McKenna also welcomed the new sentencing option. He said: “It is really important that the views of victims of crime and communities are taken account of in the use of Payback, and that this should include the nature of work to be undertaken and the demonstrable difference it makes to the relevant community.”