By Islay McColl
Almost 25,000 criminals have breached community sentences over the last nine years, the Scottish Conservatives can reveal.
And the figures – obtained via a Freedom of Information request – show that, despite the thousands of breaches, fewer than a third of the offenders were punished with a prison sentence.
The SNP Government also refused to reveal the nature of the breaches committed by those who were subsequently imprisoned.
More than a quarter of offenders who were found to have breached community sentences were merely handed another community sentence as punishment.
The SNP’s presumption against short-term prison sentences has meant the number of criminals receiving jail sentences for breaching community sentences is continuing to decrease.
Shadow Justice Secretary Jamie Greene has called for the SNP to impose tougher punishments on those who breach community sentences and for ministers to be fully transparent on the reasons why these criminals were sent to jail.
Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Justice Jamie Greene MSP, right, said:“The number of criminals who have breached community sentences in recent years is eye-watering.
“These people have already been convicted of crimes, often very serious, but their punishment for a breach in the SNP’s soft-touch justice system is frequently an unspecified penalty which they have refused to give details of.
“Even worse, thousands of criminals’ punishment for breaching their community sentences is to be given yet another community order – with fewer than a third given a jail sentence. That makes a complete mockery of our justice system.
“The justice system must be more transparent, and the SNP could start by publishing the reasons these criminals were deemed to have breached their community sentence.
“The SNP’s justice system must take a tougher approach towards these criminals who breach the terms of their community sentences. Ministers should reverse their effective ban on short sentences, which is clearly contributing to the rise in offenders avoiding jail for such breaches.”
Nearly 25,000 criminals breached their community sentence over the last nine years. Between 2012-13 and 2020-21, 24,181 Community Payback Orders were terminated due to a breach by the offender. (Scottish Government FOI, 19 August 2022, ).
Less than a third were punished with prison as a result of their breach. Over those nine years, just 6,777 offenders were given jail time for breaching the terms of their Community Payback Order. (Scottish Government FOI, 19 August 2022).
More than 6,500 criminals were given another community sentence for breaching their community sentence. In that same period, 6,562 offenders were given another Community Payback Order for breaching the terms of their previous Community Payback Order. (Scottish Government FOI, 19 August 2022).
The Scottish Government would not give the reasons for the breaches of the community sentences. The Scottish Government claimed ‘we do not hold information on reasons listed for breach’. (Scottish Government FOI, 19 August 2022).
The Scottish Government also does not specify what ‘other penalty’ or ‘other outcome’ entails. 1,725 criminals were issued with ‘other penalties’ for breaching their Community Payback Order and a further 6,317 were issued with ‘other outcomes’ for their breaches – but the Scottish Government do no state what these penalties or outcomes are (Scottish Government FOI, 19 August 2022).