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CPOs could fall into disrepute, Matheson warned in letter

The SNP’s community payback orders could “fall into disrepute” if they continue to be used as punishment for serious crimes like rape and child sexual assault.

In a letter to justice secretary Michael Matheson, the Scottish Conservatives have urged him to carry out a fresh review into sentencing guidelines to ensure such offences are always met with a jail term.

Shadow justice secretary Douglas Ross warned that the public will rapidly lose faith in community sentencing unless urgent changes are made.

It was reported on Thursday that CPOs have resulted in rapists, child rapists and sex offenders being given punishments such as litter-picking and snow-clearing.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson challenged Nicola Sturgeon on the issue at First Minister’s Questions, demanding an audit takes place.

However, Ms Sturgeon said – while rape was a “heinous” crime – she was satisfied with the way in which CPOs were working.

Now, Mr Ross has written the letter in the hope of forcing a rethink.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Douglas Ross said:

“There is much cross-party consensus on the need for community sentencing to be applied to many crimes and offences, but crimes as serious as rape should not be among them.

“While it’s not the job of politicians to tell our courts what to do, it is the case that they dictate the policy framework in which our judges and sheriffs operate.

“We all agree on the need for efforts to support rehabilitation.

“But we believe there is a danger that community-based justice could fall into disrepute if, as at present, sentences are breached and applied to crimes as serious as rape.

“In an effort to get this issue absolutely right, the Scottish Conservatives are willing to work collaboratively with the Scottish Government and other political parties to ensure the correct balance is struck where community sentencing is concerned.”


Notes to editors:

To see a copy of the letter, visit:

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson challenged Nicola Sturgeon on the issue at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday:

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