THE failure rate for the commonest form of community sentence in Scotland has hit a record high. 

New official figures show almost a third of community payback orders (CPOs) were not successfully completed last year.

HeraldScotland: Camley's cartoon: Justice Secretary under fire over community payback orders.Camley's cartoon: Justice Secretary under fire over community payback orders.

The 31.9 per cent non-completion rate in 2018-19 is the highest since CPOs were introduced in 2011.

The failure rate for drug treatment and testing orders was also at a seven year high last year, with only 37.3% of DTTOs successfully completed, and more than a quarter ending in jail time.

The Scottish Tories accused SNP Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf of presiding over a broken “soft touch” system that failed to tackle crime.

The Government defended the CPO system, saying communities had benefited from around 8m hours of unpaid work carried out by people on community sentences since 2011.

Unpaid work by people serving CPOs includes maintaining footpaths and clearing drains, making furniture for foodbanks and schools, and redecorating community halls.

The figures are contained in the latest Criminal Justice Social Work Statistics in Scotland, which compiles data from council social work services 

It showed social work departments were involved in 18,252 court ordered cases which ended in 2018-19, of which 16,990 were CPOs and 564 were DTTOs.  

The completion rate for CPOs has generally been around 70 per cent since they replaced community service in 2011.

But last year the completion rate fell from 69.3 to 68.1%, the lowest on record.

Completion rates for DTTOs have always been lower, because of the chaotic lives of the addicts who receive them in an effort to keep them out of prison.

But after a record success rate of 55.5% in 2014-15, successful completions have fallen sharply in recent years, and last year fell from 38.9% in 2018-18 to 37.3%.

The statistics also reveal a rise in some non-custodial sentences, with the number of diversion from prosecution cases up 7% between 2017-18 and 2018-19 to over 1,800, around the same levels last seen in 2014-15 and 2015-16. 

There was also a 26% rise last year in the number of people given supervised bail rather than being remanded in custody to 340, the first rise in numbers since 2013-14. 

However there was an 8% drop in the CPOs issued. 

Most CPOs included a requirement for unpaid work or other activity (73%), and 58% included offender supervision.

Older people were more likely than younger one to successfully complete CPOs.

Completion rates were 78% for those aged over 40 and 65% for those aged 40 and under. 

People in work (81%) were substantially more likely to complete CPOs than those not (62%).

Scottish Tory justice spokesman Liam Kerr said: “The SNP’s soft touch justice clearly isn’t an effective answer to Scotland’s rising crime rate.

“This significant increase in diversions from prosecution denies more victims the justice they deserve while offenders avoid any meaningful punishment.

“While early and positive intervention by social work could be helpful, there is a danger that young offenders are simply being recycled back onto our streets.

“In addition, many of the payback orders that are being completed aren’t starting on time, and many aren’t rehabilitating the criminals who do finish them.

“Crime has risen for two years in a row, and violent crime rose by 10% last year alone.

“Victims are fed up of being ignored, police officers are working tirelessly in dilapidated buildings and prison officers are off on stress-related sickness leave.

“The Justice Secretary’s approach isn’t working.”

Mr Yousaf said: “While prison is necessary for offenders who pose a significant public safety risk, short-term custodial sentences are an ineffective means of rehabilitation. 

“Imprisonment, including remand, disrupts families and communities, employment and housing – the very factors that deter offending and keep crime down.

“Unpaid work completed by people serving CPOs benefits local projects and helps them to become active and responsible contributors to their community. 

“We recognise that some individuals will require sustained support and we are investing £9.5 m a year more in community justice services compared to 2015-16 as part of more than £100m funding for justice social work.

“Many people in the justice system have chaotic backgrounds and struggle with addiction and mental health problems – issues that won’t be solved by a short period in prison, where hard-working staff should be focused on the most serious offenders. 

“Community sentences, with supervision and other conditions where necessary, add structure and help people make the positive changes needed to tackle the causes of their behaviour.”