Tuesday, 05 February 2019 00:38


Official figures have shown that Scotland’s progressive approach to justice is paying off, with communities benefiting from around 7 million hours of work by people serving Community Payback Orders.

In Scotland, the use of custodial sentences under 3 months has fallen over the last decade, and re-conviction rates are at a 19 year low. Since their introduction in 2011, community sentences have been shown to work in preventing re-offending.

The Tories in Scotland have launched narrow-minded attacks on the replacement of short prison sentences with community sentences, calling the approach “soft touch” – in spite of clear evidence that it is the right approach. Their hypocrisy was exposed when Tory Minister Rory Stewart stated that “not overusing short prison sentences inappropriately is a good lesson from Scotland from which we wish to learn.”

Jenny Gilruth MSP, who sits on Holyrood’s Justice Committee, said:

“The SNP’s record on justice speaks for itself. Communities across Scotland are now safer places to live thanks to common-sense policies which deliver for Scotland. 

“Short-term imprisonment can tear families apart, needlessly ruin lives and lead to reoffending. It’s a waste of public resources but, more importantly, a huge waste of human potential.”

"Liam Kerr should start learning lessons from the SNP instead of playing political games, and obsessing over the outdated arguments of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ justice.

“These new figures prove that it is possible to have a justice system which is able to rehabilitate offenders, reduce re-offending and provide support for victims at the same time.”



Criminal Justice Social Work Statistics in Scotland: 2017-18

6,887,119 of hours of unpaid work have been recorded as part of CPO unpaid work or other activity requirements successfully completed between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2018. 

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Rory Stewart): I genuinely pay tribute to some of the things that are happening in Scotland in relation to prisons, and I was privileged to visit HMP Perth, which is a good example of a busy, challenged local prison that is being run well. Prison officers in Scotland would also say that there have been significant cuts to their numbers since the early 2000s, and they, too, have had to make serious efficiency savings, which they have done well, and they are running good prisons. We are watching closely what is happening on short sentences in Scotland. Like the Scottish Government, our priority is to protect the public, but the evidence on what could be done to reduce reoffending by not overusing short prison sentences inappropriately is a good lesson from Scotland from, which we wish to learn.

Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con): The Minister has reduced the number of prisoners at HMP Birmingham. Will he look seriously at reducing the number of prisoners right across the prison estate and relentlessly focus on rehabilitation? For victims and for those serving sentences of under 12 months, prison is not working.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Rory Stewart): I thank my hon. Friend very much for his question. It is of course true that we have evidence that shows clearly that there is a higher incidence of reoffending from people in short prison sentences than from people who serve community sentences. That is why the example from the Government of Scotland is very relevant. The best way to protect the public is by reducing reoffending. Putting people unnecessarily into prison in a way that damages them, does not change their lives and leads to reoffending when they leave is not in the prisoners’ interests, is not in the public purse’s interest and, ultimately, is not in the interests of public safety.

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