Ayrshire criminals have dodged a staggering 17,086 hours of unpaid work requirements, it has been revealed.
The shock figures come from a Scottish Conservative and Unionist Freedom of Information request to the Scottish Government and makes interesting reading.
With the Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent UK lockdown in March last year, it meant criminals who were on unpaid work requirements, as part of a Community Payback Order (CPO), were unable to fulfil their outstanding hours, as imposed by the courts.
That’s because restrictions of movement were in place in all over the country and people were ordered to stay at home.
As a result, it’s caused a huge backlog in the judicial system.
But the Scottish Government announced in January that they would use ‘extraordinary powers’ to write off a substantial part of those unpaid work requirements for some criminals in order to ease the logjam.
However, South Scotland Conservative MSP, Sharon Dowey, has accused the SNP of letting criminals off the hook in Ayrshire.
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And she wants a Victims’ Law introduced so that victims are ‘put first.’
Nationally, a total of 262,153 unpaid hours of work handed down to criminals have been wiped out by the SNP across Scotland.
In North Ayrshire the number of hours written off was 5,346.
MSP Sharon Dowey said: “The amount of Community Payback Orders cut by the SNP in Ayrshire is absolutely staggering.
“They’ve let criminals off the hook by writing off these sentences.
“That is a total slap in the face to victims of crime across Ayrshire and yet another item to add to the SNP’s list of soft-touch justice failures.
“SNP Ministers need to ensure these community sentences are taken seriously and fulfilled. Anything else is a mockery.”
She added: “It is the latest example of the SNP letting down victims.
“The Scottish Conservatives will continue to push for a Victims Law to be introduced to put victims first and end the SNP’s soft-touch justice system, by ensuring criminals receive appropriately tough sentences.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “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 spokesperson added: “Our 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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