COMMUNITY justice officials at Clackmannanshire Council are not expecting a huge rise in offenders sentenced to unpaid work as the presumption against short prison sentences is extended.

Sentences handed out in the Wee County are currently already in line with Scottish Government plans to reduce the number of people sent to prison for 12 months or less in a bid to curb reoffending, according to one council official.

Last week, the local authority’s People Committee also heard about the “significant cost” to the taxpayer when someone is imprisoned, understood to be more than £30,000 a year per person in Scotland.

Community Payback Orders (CPOs), the subject of a report related to 2017-18 which was debated at Kilncraigs, are much cheaper to enforce and can benefit the community in practical ways while giving offenders a chance to address their behaviour.

Just under 11,000 hours of unpaid work were completed around Clackmannanshire in that year, a 30 per cent reduction from before, which according to a council officer was due to a number of visiting sheriffs at the local court.

Among the beneficiaries were various local churches that were helped with janitorial duties, local associations and clubs as well as individual senior citizens.

Litter picks and tidy ups are also regulars in the unpaid work squad’s schedule and environmental services often work with offenders to clear paths linking villages, cut back overgrowth or make sure wooden bridges and steps are safe.

One of the local good causes benefitting in the past was The Gate in Alloa where work was carried out in the garden.

Marie Brownhill, centre manager, said: “We couldn’t have completed the project without them.

“It was a great help to us and they were always really friendly and keen to do whatever was asked, whether it was small or large tasks.

“No problems whatsoever and we really appreciated the help, as I say, we’d never have gotten the work done in the timescale or we wouldn’t have had the manpower to complete the project without them.”

Those on CPOs have also given their views, with the report quoting one as saying: “I’ve enjoyed the experience. Now interested in trying to help more in my community.”

Others highlighted unpaid work’s power in keeping them occupied, giving them a purpose, helping them gain confidence again and allowing them to settle into a routine while meeting other people.

The report cited another offender adding: “Supervisors have been sound, and all the boys. It’s been good.”