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Claims Scottish Government is 'letting criminals off lightly' in Highlands

By Scott Maclennan

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The SNP are “letting criminals off lightly” in the Highlands after they wrote-off thousands of hours of unpaid community work – including in the Highland according to one MSP.

Edward Mountain hit out after a Scottish Conservative Freedom of Information Request found that hundreds of thousands of unpaid hours of work given to criminals have been wiped out by the SNP across Scotland.

In January, the Scottish Government announced they would use 'extraordinary powers' to write off a huge number of hours handed out in Community Payback Orders.

In total, 262,153 hours of orders had been written off – the equivalent to almost 11,000 days or almost 30 years worth of work by people convicted of breaking the law that will now go undone.

In the Highland Council area 11,317 hours of community payback orders were ditched – something Mr Mountain says is an 'absolutely staggering' slap in the face to victims of crimes.

He vowed to continue to push Scottish Tory plans for a Victims Law to be introduced as soon as possible – the policy aims to safeguard the rights of victims of crime through legislation.

“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.”

But the Scottish Government rebuffed those allegations saying that though some hours were cut that was to deal with the "unavoidable backlog" during the pandemic and none concerned domestic abuse, sexual offending, and stalking offences.

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.”

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