Villages to benefit from payback orders

Councillor Leigh Wilson is pictured at the beach car park in Inverbervie which Brighter Bervie has renovated.
Councillor Leigh Wilson is pictured at the beach car park in Inverbervie which Brighter Bervie has renovated.

Villages in the Mearns are set to benefit from Community Payback Orders as offenders undertake a range of unpaid work to clean up the streets.

Payback Orders were introduced in Scotland in 2011 as a non-custodial alternative to imprisonment and are widely used across the country as part of larger initiatives to improve communities.

And Mearns councillor Leigh Wilson has been working with Aberdeenshire Council to ensure that local communities receive similar benefits.

Mr Wilson has asked if Community Payback Orders can be used in Mearns villages and said the suggestions he has put forward have been taken into account.

He continued: “Laurencekirk has a lot of exciting projects developing at the moment – the Memorial Park regeneration and the Mearns Healthy Living Network, for example – and if offenders can help support these groups’ endeavours then it is a good use of public time.

“Bervie already has an established group dedicated to showcasing the beauty of the burgh and offenders have so far helped clean the seafront and repaint the Cutty Sark pedestal. Those who have been involved in the project have contributed well and that is exactly the kind of ethos I want to see replicated across the Mearns. I want to ensure that offenders aren’t just given jobs for the sake of completing their sentence; I want to know that the community is seeing real results, and so far that has been the case.”

Since the scheme introduction, more than six million hours of unpaid work have been completed by offenders across Scotland, helping bring the reconviction rate to an 18 year low. Most payback orders include a requirement for unpaid work and around half are conducted under supervision.

Mr Wilson added: “If people do wrong they should pay something back to the community – I think most people would agree with that. With Payback Orders, communities can see justice being done and, most importantly, real improvements in terms of local cleanliness and general aesthetics. Snow clearing operations are also a possibility so, particularly in smaller residential areas where the council struggles to reach, this may be worth exploring.

“I am mindful, though, of making sure payback orders are used on the basis of need as opposed to compensating for a loss of a council service but, on the whole, the whole idea of restorative justice is a good one.”