Criminal justice social work statistics: 2019 to 2020

National-level information, as well as some local authority breakdowns, on criminal justice social work activity in Scotland. Also includes data on justice social work services and social work orders, as well as characteristics of the individuals involved.

This document is part of a collection

5.2 Community payback orders

(Tables 2 & 10-24 and Charts 3-7)

5.2.1 The number of community payback orders (CPOs) imposed increased in the initial years following their introduction, reaching 19,500 in 2015-16 (Table 2). This rise was expected due to CPOs replacing legacy orders for offences committed on or after 1 February 2011. The total CPOs imposed then fell in the next three years to 16,500 in 2018-19. There was a small rise in 2019-20 of 1 per cent to 16,700.

Chart 3 Number of community payback orders imposed per month, 2018-19 & 2019-20
Community payback orders imposed in Scotland by month of imposition, 2018-19 & 2019-20

5.2.2 Chart 3 shows how numbers imposed in 2019-20 were consistently higher for most months compared to the equivalent month in 2018-19. The only exception to this was in March where numbers in March 2020 were clearly lower than normal due to the effect on court business of the COVID-19 pandemic. This did not stop the total orders imposed from rising between 2018-19 and 2019-20 although it is worth noting that, if March figures had been excluded from both years, the increase would have been higher - 5 per cent.

Chart 4 Number of community payback orders imposed per 10,000 population : Breakdown by local authority area, 2019-20
Number of community payback orders imposed in each council area per 10,000 population, 2019-20

Note : Population aged 16 to 70.

5.2.3 In 2019-20, there were 43 CPOs imposed per 10,000 population (Table 3 & Chart 4). This was highest for those living in Clackmannanshire (69), West Dunbartonshire (68) and North Ayrshire (64). The lowest proportions were for those living in East Renfrewshire (16), East Lothian (19) and City of Edinburgh (21). While the proportion for City of Edinburgh was considerably lower than for Scotland as a whole, it was higher than the national average in the other three city council areas - Aberdeen (62), Glasgow (53) and Dundee (50). More detailed information by local authority area can be found in the additional datasets which accompany this publication.


5.2.4 A CPO can contain up to nine different requirements at first imposition but every order should have either or both an unpaid work or other activity requirement or an offender supervision requirement.

5.2.5 Unpaid work or other activity has always been the requirement most commonly issued as part of a CPO. The proportion of orders with unpaid work was high in the early years after the orders were introduced, peaking at 80 per cent in 2013-14. This has fallen each year since, reaching 70 per cent in 2019-20 (Table 12 and Chart 5). The average number of hours given as part of unpaid work requirements has risen steadily in each of the last four years, reaching 129 hours in 2019-20 (Table 13). The proportion of unpaid work requirements which are level 2 (over 100 hours) has increased from 47 per cent in 2015-16 to 53 per cent in 2019-20.

5.2.6 The proportion of orders with an offender supervision requirement rose to 62 per cent in 2019-20, the highest level in the last seven years (Table 12 and Chart 5). In the years 2015-16 to 2019-20, around 56 to 58 per cent of supervision requirements were for 12 months or less (Table 14). The average length of supervision requirements in 2019-20 was 15.7 months, in line with the position in the previous four years.

5.2.7 Chart 5 illustrates how much the composition of orders has changed since 2013-14, with much greater use being made of offender supervision and less being used of unpaid work or other activity.

Chart 5 Percentage of community payback orders with unpaid work or other activity and with offender supervision: 2013-14 to 2019-20
Prevalence of unpaid work and supervision among community payback orders in last seven years

5.2.8 The proportion of orders issued with both unpaid work or other activity and offender supervision remained historically high in 2019-20, at 32 per cent (Table 12).

5.2.9 The other seven CPO requirements, which should only be issued alongside offender supervision, are:

  • Conduct
  • Programme
  • Alcohol treatment
  • Compensation
  • Drug treatment
  • Mental health treatment
  • Residence

5.2.10 Conduct and programme have been the most commonly issued of these requirements (Table 12). The proportion of orders with conduct requirements has risen in each of the last four years and now sits at almost 10 per cent. The rise in this proportion may have been a contributing factor in the increase in the proportion of orders with offender supervision requirements over the same period. The proportion of orders with a programme requirement was steady across 2015-16 to 2018-19, at between five and six per cent of all orders, although this rose to seven per cent in 2019-20.

5.2.11 Other requirements include compensation (3.1 per cent in 2019-20), alcohol treatment (1.2 per cent) and drug treatment (1.0 per cent) (Table 12). The least commonly issued requirements were mental health treatment and residence.

5.2.12 The average number of requirements per order has been steadily rising over the last five years, increasing from 1.45 in 2015-16 to 1.55 in 2019-20 (Tables 10 & 12).


5.2.13 People aged 18 to 20 have always been the most likely to be given a CPO, with 84 people per 10,000 population of this age group given an order in 2019-20. However, people receiving CPOs have been getting slightly older each year. The proportion aged 25 and under has fallen from 34 per cent in 2015-16 to 28 per cent in 2019-20, while those aged over 30 now account for over half of the total (54 per cent) compared with 48 per cent in 2015-16 (Table 10). The fall in the prevalence for young people reflects the marked fall in court volumes for this age group. As a result of these changes over time, the average age of a CPO recipient has risen by three years since the introduction of the orders.

5.2.14 The proportion of orders issued to males has remained unchanged at 85 per cent (Table 10). Generally around 60 per cent of those receiving orders were unemployed with around a quarter in employment or self-employed and just over 10 per cent economically inactive.

5.2.15 Chart 6 illustrates how the employment status differs between those who are given an unpaid work or other activity requirement and those given an offender supervision requirement. While the proportion who are unemployed is similar across the two groups, those getting unpaid work were more likely to be in employment and less likely to be economically inactive compared to those getting supervision.

Chart 6 Employment status breakdown for CPOs with unpaid work or other activity and with offender supervision, 2019-20
Community payback orders with unpaid work & with supervision: employment status breakdown, 2019-20

5.2.16 The vast majority (96 per cent) of community payback orders were issued by sheriff courts in 2019-20, mainly by summary procedure (Table 11). The proportion accounted for by justice of the peace courts fell slightly to three per cent.

5.2.17 On imposing a community payback order, a court may include provision for the order to be reviewed at specified time(s). Seventeen per cent of orders commenced in 2019-20 were issued with provision for court progress reviews (Table 15). This varied substantially according to the makeup of the order. Orders with unpaid work or other activity (14 per cent) and compensation (17 per cent) were the least likely to have progress reviews. This proportion was highest for those with a drug treatment requirement (49 per cent). It was also high for those with mental health treatment and residence requirements in 2019-20 although these can vary substantially from year to year due to the small numbers involved.

5.2.18 There were a total of 16,500 CPOs in force at 31 March 2020 (see Table 2 and the additional datasets which accompany this publication). This total rose in 2019-20 after falling in each of the two previous years.

Timescales for implementation

5.2.19 The Scottish Government community payback order practice guidance is intended to support practitioners and managers to improve their performance and work towards the achievement of the national outcomes and standards for social work services in the criminal justice system. Further details on the guidance can be found in §B.6.

5.2.20 The proportion of orders where first direct contact took place within one working day of imposition has fluctuated around the 75 per cent mark over the last five years (Table 16). In addition, in 2019-20, 13 per cent took more than five working days.

5.2.21 Over the last five years, just under 80 per cent of first induction / case management meetings took place within five working days. Roughly equal proportions took six to ten working days and more than ten working days.

5.2.22 There were various reasons why these timescales were not met. Forty-two per cent of delays in first direct contact were due to missed appointments, while the unavailability of a social worker (3 per cent) or other non-client related reason (26 per cent) together accounted for a further 28 per cent (Table 17). Other client-based reasons included being subject to another sentence, employment or illness. Delays for the first induction / case management meeting were due to a wide range of reasons. In 28 per cent of cases the individual missed their induction/meeting, while a further 24 per cent involved being subject to another sentence, employment or illness. Another 6 per cent were due to delays in first making contact or staff availability, with 23 and 18 per cent of cases involving, respectively, other client based and other non-client based reasons.

5.2.23 The proportion of unpaid work placements which started within seven working days in 2019-20 was 73 per cent, a slight rise on the levels seen over the last four years (Table 18). Twenty-seven per cent of people who started their work placement after seven working days in 2019-20 did so because they did not turn up for the first day of placement (Table 19).


5.2.24 The successful completion rate for CPOs terminated in 2019-20 was 69 per cent (Table 2). With the exception of the high level in 2013-14, this rate has generally been around 70 per cent since these orders were introduced. In 2019-20, 16 per cent of orders terminated were revoked following a breach application to the courts and a further nine per cent were revoked following a review (Table 20).

5.2.25 Seventy-two per cent of orders which finished during 2019-20 did not involve any breach applications during the lifetime of the order (Table 21). For the remainder, there were a total of 5,700 breach applications made (Table 22). The vast majority of breach applications (83 per cent) were lodged with the court within five working days of the decision to make an application.

5.2.26 For CPOs revoked due to breach, the most likely specific outcomes were a custodial sentence or a new order (24 and 27 per cent, respectively), with 25 per cent resulting in an “other” outcome (Table 20). Eighteen per cent of orders revoked due to review resulted in a custodial sentence, another 15 per cent got a new CPO or a monetary penalty, while 45 per cent had an “other” outcome.

Chart 7 Completions/discharges of community payback orders by gender, age and employment status : 2019-20
Proportion of community payback orders successfully completed by characteristics : 2019-20

Notes: Age at imposition of order and employment status at termination. The male category includes one order where the gender of the individual in question was classified under “other”.

5.2.27 Completion rates in 2019-20 varied by age and employment status (Chart 7). Rates were again relatively similar for all age groups up to age 40, ranging from 64 per cent for those aged 18 to 20 to 68 per cent for under 18s. For those aged 40 or under as a whole, 66 per cent of orders were successfully completed. For people aged over 40 however, the rate was much higher at 77 per cent. Eighty-two per cent of those who were employed or self-employed completed successfully, compared to 63 per cent of those who were unemployed or economically inactive.

5.2.28 During 2019-20, a total of 7,400 unpaid work or other activity requirements were successfully completed, 11 per cent fewer than in 2018-19 and 17 per cent lower compared with 2017-18 (Table 23). On average, 129 hours were carried out for each order and they took around 7½ months to complete.

5.2.29 The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 defined the time limit for completion of an unpaid work or other activity requirement as "3 months or such longer period as the court may specify in the requirement" for level 1 and "6 months or such longer period as the court may specify in the requirement" for level 2. While these time limits were increased by the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020, this change did not come into effect until after the end of year 2019-20 and does not therefore influence any of the figures in this bulletin.

5.2.30 Thirty-five per cent of successfully completed unpaid work or other activity requirements were completed within the 3/6 month time frame in 2019-20 while a further 43 per cent were completed within a later timescale which the court had specified (Table 24).

5.2.31 For requirements which were completed outwith the specified timescale in 2019-20, the reason why they were completed later was most commonly down to non-compliance (21 per cent), other non-client-based (22 per cent) or other client-based reasons (35 per cent).



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