Criminal justice services

Community sentences

Courts have a range of community sentences, also known as alternatives to prison, available to deal with individuals whose offending does not warrant a prison sentence.

Community Payback Orders

The community payback order can be imposed for a period between 6 months and three years. The court can impose one or more of the following requirements:

  1. Compensation
  2. Offender supervision
  3. Unpaid work or other activity
  4. Programme
  5. Mental health treatment
  6. Drug treatment
  7. Alcohol treatment
  8. Residence
  9. Conduct

For more information, please see Community Payback Order: practice guidance

Diversion from prosecution

The procurator fiscal decides to refer a case to the social work service rather than proceed with a prosecution. 

Key features of the diversion from prosecution are:

  • Directed at minor offences
  • The alleged offender must agree to work with social work on the particular issues underpinning their alleged offending, for example, alcohol abuse, childcare issues
  • Generally supervision is for a 3 to 4 month period
  • A positive social work report at the end of the period will probably result in the Fiscal not proceeding further with a prosecution
  • It services to remove lower level cases from the court system

Drug Treatment and Testing Orders (DTTO)

Drug treatment and testing orders are aimed at drug misusing offenders whose offending is directly related to their drug misuse. In tackling the drug problem we can steer offenders away from crime. It is important to stress that serious drug dealers will continue to receive custodial sentences.

Key features of the order:

  • It is a court order of between 6 months and 3 years in length
  • Delivered in partnership with NHS Highland
  • Offenders are supervised by a social worker
  • Offenders are subject to regular and random drug testing
  • It is a highly intensive order
  • Regular reviews are held at court with the sheriff and the offender present, usually monthly, to consider progress
  • Orders are strictly enforced and failure by the offenders to comply with the order results in them being returned to court

For more information, please see drug treatment and testing orders - guidance for schemes

Bail supervision

Bail supervision gives the court an alternative to remanding offenders in custody. If placed on bail supervision, an offender will be monitored and supervised in the community where they live. Key features of the bail supervision are:

  • Bailees are seen within one hour of release from custody
  • Bailees are seen a minimum of two times per week in summary cases and three times in solemn cases, including home visits
  • Bailees are referred onto services if they have identified needs related to their offending, for example, drug issues
  • Non-compliance is reported immediately to the police

For more information please see

Restriction of liberty orders

Restriction of liberty orders are a high tariff community sentence imposed by the court as an option in cases where they might otherwise be thinking of a prison sentence or another community penalty that would impose substantial demands on the offender.

Key features are:

  • Restricts the offender’s liberty, normally to a particular place for up to 12 hours a day for up to 12 months
  • Can also restrict an offender from a particular place for up to 12 months
  • The order is electronically monitored by a commercial contractor (G4S)
  • A Community Payback Order or a DTTO can be made concurrently for the same address
  • An RLO can be made following the breach of a Community Payback Order

This legislation also provides for the use of electronic monitoring (tagging) equipment to monitor offenders' compliance with the terms of the order. 

Structured Deferred Sentence

This is a short period of focussed intervention delivered during a period of deferment by the court prior to sentence:

  • Delivered in partnership with Apex Scotland and Action for Children who provide an employability related input and offending awareness programme respectively
  • Normally for 3 to 6 months
  • Work focuses on the offender’s needs associated with offending, for example, alcohol misuse
  • Targeted at lower risk offenders
  • If the offender complies court can will take this into account when imposing sentence at the end of the period of deferment