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Community Payback Order (CPO)


The Scottish Government's approach to community-based sentencing

Why did we change?

The Scottish Government's 2008 report "Protecting Scotland's Communities - Fair, Fast and Flexible Justice" picked up on recommendations made by the Prisons Commission and laid out the principles of Community Payback. It started from the principle that community-based justice should be speedy, should be seen as relevant, and should be visible to the community. The Scottish Government is working on achieving this by a range of measures, covering various aspects of the justice system.

Paying back Communities:  the report highlighted two of the principles outlined by the Prisons Commission:

- That custody should only be used when it is needed, to reflect the seriousness of the offence, and for those individuals who pose risk of harm. Therefore community sentences should be the default choice for less serious offenders;

- That sentences served in the community should involve 'payback' - that those people who have damaged their communities by their offending should make reparation to the community, and thus indirectly, to those people whom they offended against. While Payback may be through Unpaid Work or by paying compensation, the concept also includes paying back to the community by working at changing patterns of unacceptable behaviour.

The report considered that short-term prison sentences are over-used, and advocated the introduction of a new community sentence structure which would provide the courts with a punishment for offenders which could also address areas they require to change in their lives. The intention was that these community sentences should principally be a punishment, and that, unlike Probation Orders, they would formally be recorded as sentences of the court.

The Community Payback Order (CPO)

The former sentences of Probation, Community Service and Supervised Attendance Orders have now been generally replaced with the new 'Community Payback Order' (CPO). This is intended to allow the courts flexibility in dealing with both less serious and more serious behaviour. This new court order will allow the courts to impose one or more of a range of nine requirements. The former orders still must be used for offences that occurred before the implementation date of the new orders (1st February 2011).

The CPO must contain one or both of these two requirements:

- Supervision Requirement
- Unpaid Work or Other Activity Requirement

It may also contain any of the following seven requirements, each of which can only be imposed alongside a Supervision Requirement:

- Compensation Requirement
- Programme Requirement (taking part in groupwork or other structured activities)
- Residence Requirement (living at a specified address)
- Mental Health Requirement
- Drug Treatment Requirement
- Alcohol Treatment Requirement
- Conduct Requirement (a new type of requirement, allowing the court to enforce particular types of behaviour; for example, a sexual offender on a CPO might have a conduct requirement that he should not approach playparks)

While a Restriction of Liberty Order may still be used, this will be a separate Court Order. There is no provision for a Restricted Movement Requirement (electronic monitoring) to be imposed as a requirement of a CPO at the point of sentence: it is only available to the court as a extra sanction for someone who has failed to keep to the conditions of a CPO and who has been taken back to court for this under Breach proceedings.

The time allowed by law to serve an Unpaid Work or Other Activity Requirement of a CPO will depend on the number of hours ordered.  A CPO is designed to offer courts a sentence which can be used at an early stage in someone's offending and for those people who have defaulted on payment of a fine; in these situations a Level 1 requirement is made, which specifies a period of between 20 and 100 hours of unpaid work, to be carried out within 3 months. 

For more serious offences, the court will make a Level 2 requirement of between 101 and 300 hours of unpaid work, which should be completed, unless the court states otherwise, within a period of 6 months.

Justice of the Peace courts can impose Unpaid Work or Other Activity Requirement of between 20 and 100 hours.

Orders will commence as quickly as possible, within 5 working days after the order is made by the court .

Managing Sentences Effectively

In the past, sentencers only found out about progress following successful completion or failures to comply with the order. This issue has been addressed by giving courts the option of reviewing progress and compliance with community sentences. These processes will be similar to those currently used in West Lothian for Drug Treatment and Testing Orders. Sentencers will have the option, when they impose a Community Payback Order, of requiring offenders to attend Review Hearings at court, in order to report back on their progress or otherwise. This allows sentencers to have a role in monitoring and motivating the offender, as well as taking swift action when breach of an order is required.

If you have any ideas about ways that offenders could help your community or organisation, please email us at If you have a specific project in mind, why not use our  Community Payback Work Request form?


Updated: 10/08/12