CRIMINAL offenders are to be sent out to remove chewing gum from pavements across the Kingdom as part of work to pay back communities for the damage they have done.
The scheme is the first of its kind in Scotland and has been developed by Fife Council’s criminal justice social work team in direct response to frustrations which have been expressed by communities.
The initiative was praised by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and follows laws brought in which mean local communities can have a direct say on the type of work they want to see low level offenders doing as part of their community payback sentences.
Mr MacAskill said: “The ugly sight of blotches of chewing gum littering our pavements is unfortunately a common problem for many communities up and down the country.
“It’s a bugbear for many; people want to see something being done about it and this project will now see action being taken to clean up our streets for the benefit of the community.
“The council and street cleaners do their best but finding the resources and labour required to return pavements to the condition the community expect is often a real struggle.”
Offenders on community payback orders can be used in many ways, including clearing paths of snow and ice during bad weather, renovating elderly care homes and repairing fallen gravestones.
Councillor Judy Hamilton, executive spokesperson for social work and health at Fife Council, welcomed the measure, saying it was an “imaginative dispersal of funds”.
Cllr Hamilton added that the communities targeted for chewing gum street cleaning would welcome the project.
The latest official statistics show that sending low level offenders out on community service is far more effective in stopping further crime than a short term prison sentence.
Over 73 per cent of offenders imprisoned for three months or less will re-offend within two years compared to 38 per cent of those who receive community service.
Councillor Margaret Kennedy, who is the convenor of the Fife and Forth Valley Community Justice Authority said: “I am delighted to see the results of the disbursement of monies received by the CJA being put to good use.
“In particular, as the funds were raised from the proceeds of crime.”