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Policy in detail: Community Payback Order

The Community Payback Order (CPO) came into force in Scotland in February 2011, replacing provisions for Community Service Orders, Probation Orders and Supervised Attendance Orders. Other community-based court orders include the Drug Treatment and Testing Order and the Restriction of Liberty Order or electronic tagging.

As an alternative to custody, research shows that the CPO is working. In 2011-12, a total of 934,502 hours work was completed through CPOs across Scotland. The community sentencing provided by CPOs is crucial for making realistic alternatives to custody available and for supporting rehabilitation. It is also a means of delivering a more constructive form of justice where offenders can pay back their debt to society by improving the communities that they have harmed through unpaid work.

In establishing a CPO with an offender, a court has a number of different requirements to choose from. These are selected depending on the nature of the crime an offender has committed, the underlying issues fuelling it, and whether these issues need to be addressed to stop reoffending in the future.

For example a CPO might require a person to carry out a specific number of hours of unpaid work in a community, complete a period of intensive supervision or attend alcohol, drug or behaviour programmes. In reality CPOs can include clearing snow and ice from pathways, building eco-plant areas for school children, repainting community centres or churches, cleaning beaches, and growing vegetables and then distributing them to care homes and local charities.