The Scottish Conservatives have routinely criticised the Scottish Government’s approach to justice matters in recent years, with a particular focus on sentencing for violent crime.
The party’s shadow justice secretary, Jamie Greene, is proposing a bill which aims to increase the rights of victims in Scotland.
On Twitter he suggested that currently, those convicted of rape and domestic violence, can receive community payback sentences rather than prison time, and there were tens of thousands of hours of community payback hours uncompleted.
CLAIM: “It’s bad enough that rapists and domestic abusers are being handed community sentences to begin with, but the fact that the equivalent of 76 years’ worth of unpaid work is outstanding is nothing but an insult to victims.”
Ferret Fact Service looked into these claims.
Claim: “Rapists… are being handed community sentences.”
Convictions and sentencing data is collated by the Scottish Government in the Criminal Proceedings statistics each year.
The first part of Jamie Greene’s claim is that rapists “are being handed community sentences”.
The Scottish Government presents statistics on sentencing for rape and attempted rape together. This shows that community sentences for these crimes are extremely rare. The latest figures show just one community sentence handed down, out of 130 convictions, with the vast majority resulting in prison sentences.
According to court data, which has been provided by the Scottish Sentencing Council, there were 35 community payback orders (CPOs) for rape or attempted rape between 2011-12 and 2020-21. Of the 35 CPOs, 26 were given to offenders under the age of 21.
The latest data released by the Scottish Government, for 2019-20, shows 98 per cent of those convicted of rape or attempted rape were given a custodial sentence. About 95 per cent of rape and attempted rape convictions have led to prison sentences since 2011-12, the Scottish Government data shows.
Government data does not separate out the data for rape and attempted rape, so we cannot say which crime those who were given CPOs as opposed to prison sentences committed.
Ferret Fact Service verdict: Mostly False
It is very rare for a person convicted of rape or attempted rape to receive anything other than a prison sentence, and there are no statistics which separate out the two offences so we cannot say for sure whether any rapists were given community payback sentences. In the latest figures, only one person convicted of rape or attempted rape was given a community payback sentence.
Claim: “domestic abusers… are being handed community sentences.”
It is certainly the case that community payback orders (CPOs) are regularly handed down to people who commit domestic abuse crimes. The latest Scottish Government statistics covering 2019-20 suggest it is the most common sentence for those convicted under the domestic abuse act.
Ferret Fact Service verdict: True
This claim is accurate.
Claim: “The equivalent of 76 years’ worth of unpaid work is outstanding… is nothing but an insult to victims.”
The second part of Green’s claim relates to uncompleted hours of unpaid work that convicted people are required to do as part of their community payback order. Those with a CPO can be ordered to carry out between 20 and 300 hours of unpaid work.
His claim, which was also reported by Scottish media outlets, is that the equivalent of 76 years’ worth of this unpaid work was outstanding.
This comes from freedom of information requests sent by the Scottish Conservatives to Scottish councils, asking for the number of “outstanding unpaid work hours that need to be completed as part of Community Payback Orders within the local authority”. The request was for data up to 18 January 18.
These figures appear to be accurate up to that date, based on The Ferret’s analysis of the FoI responses provided by the Scottish Conservatives.
Greene’s tweet goes on to claim this is “an insult to victims”. It is important to note these figures reflect work that has yet to be done, rather than work that will definitely not be completed.
There will always be a proportion of unpaid work that is yet to be finished as part of CPO sentences.
Ferret Fact Service verdict: Half True
Jamie Greene’s claim that there are the equivalent of 76 years of unpaid work hours which are outstanding across Scotland is broadly accurate. This does not equate to hours of work which will not be completed or that has been dodged by criminals.
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