'Slap in the face to victims of crime' as 11,317 hours of community payback orders are written off in Highlands
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Highlands and Islands MSP Edward Mountain has accused the Scottish Government of “letting criminals off the hook” after thousands of hours of unpaid community work were written off.
He spoke out after a Freedom of Information request by his party, the Scottish Conservatives, found that 262,153 unpaid hours of work given to offenders had been wiped out across the country.
In January, the Scottish Government announced it would use “extraordinary powers” to write off a large number of hours handed out in community payback orders.
In the Highland Council area, 11,317 hours of community payback orders were cut.
Describing it as a slap in the face to victims of crime, Mr Mountain said he would continue to push Conservative plans for a Victims Law to be introduced.
“The amount of community payback orders cut by the SNP in the Highlands is absolutely staggering," he said.
“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 the Highlands.
“SNP ministers need to ensure these community sentences are taken seriously and fulfilled. 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.
"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.”