Public and judicial confidence in community sentencing goes hand in hand with adequate resourcing
to manage and support offenders, according to justice professionals.

A report by the Scottish Sentencing Council, published today, highlights the views of stakeholders
who attended a discussion event in March last year, including members of the judiciary, lawyers,
social workers, victim groups, police and third sector staff.

Participants were clear that a robust system of alternatives to custody is key to achieving the
Scottish Government’s aim of only using prison when there is no other option.

Chaired by Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk and chair of the Council, the event explored four
main themes on community sentencing, including gaps in provision, monitoring and management,
promoting awareness and understanding, and future developments.

As well as highlighting the need for adequate resourcing, participants were also of the view that
confidence in community sentencing could be improved by robust monitoring of the completion of
community payback orders – including increased support for offenders and the effective handling of
any breaches.

The report also lists a number of barriers to greater use of community disposals, such as gaps in
services for certain types of offenders and in different geographical areas, and judicial awareness of
the different programmes available to offenders.

Stakeholders rejected the view of community sentencing being a ‘soft-touch’ option; however, it was
agreed that there was room to consider making more sentencing options available.

This could include an increase to the maximum number of hours of unpaid work under a CPO
(beyond the present 300), or allowing restriction of liberty orders to run beyond the present limit of
one year.

There was also some support for the exploration of suspended sentences (which are not presently
available in Scotland) or so-called hybrid sentences involving prison and a subsequent community
sentence on release.

Lady Dorrian said: “I am grateful to everyone who took part in the discussion, offering their wide-
ranging views.

“The Council has a statutory duty to assist the development of policy in relation to sentencing, and
to promote greater awareness and understanding of sentencing policy and practice.
“This event offered participants from across the criminal justice system the chance to discuss their
experiences of, and views on, community sentencing, highlighting gaps or barriers to provision and
the measures that might improve judicial and public confidence in community-based interventions.
“It is the Council’s hope that this report will help to stimulate further discussion about community-
based sentencing, and will play its part in informing policy development in this important area.”

The stakeholder event followed a consultative exercise with sentencers across Scotland in early
2021, which sought to identify any gaps or barriers to provision of community based disposals and to
understand what might improve judicial confidence in community-based interventions.

The Council now plans to examine in more detail public perceptions of community sentencing and is
currently planning activity specifically designed to improve awareness of community-based
sentencing options.

The full report on the stakeholder event can be found on the Scottish Sentencing Council website.

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