Community-based disposals

This page details the range of community-based disposals that are available to the courts and which enable the child to remain in their community. Given the Whole System Approach (WSA) focus in providing robust community alternatives to secure care and custody and the concerns detailed previously regarding depriving a child of their liberty unless absolutely necessary, maximising the use of community-based disposals is crucial.

Absolute discharge

Allows the judge to discharge the child. No punishment is given but dependent on the nature of the conviction, this may be recorded and treated as a previous conviction. An absolute discharge is only given in exceptional circumstances.


Where a child found guilty of a crime is warned not to offend again. It is recorded as a conviction and appears on their criminal record. No other penalty is given.

Deferred sentence

Allows the child time to demonstrate good behaviour prior to determining sentence. This could result in the child being admonished.

Structured deferred sentence

Fine or compensation order

The child must pay compensation or a fine. Given children’s age and stage of development and likely lack of, or limited access to, finances, this measure is unlikely to be appropriate or effective for children.

Restitution Orders

Restitution Orders: as with a fine or compensation order for convictions of offences of assaulting or impeding police under section 90(1) of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012.

Drug Treatment and Testing Order



Six months to three years.


Restriction of Liberty Order (RLOs)

Under Section 245A of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 as inserted by Section 5 of the Crime and Punishment (Scotland) Act 1997 and amended by sections 43 and 50(3) of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 or Section 245A (11) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 as amended by section 121 of the AntiSocial Behaviour etc.(Scotland) Act 2004, a court can impose a Restriction of Liberty Order (RLO) on a child (including those aged under 16). The Management of Offenders (Scotland) Act 2019 extends the potential for electronic monitoring - both in terms of what other measures it can be combined with and the use of new technologies.


Breaches and compliance

Community Payback Order

Sections 227A to 227ZO, and Schedule 13 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 provide the legislative framework for Community Payback Orders (CPOs). In addition, section 82 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 provides for the situation where an individual is convicted of a sexual offence and the court imposes a CPO on that individual with an offender supervision requirement. In those circumstances the individual is required to comply with the sex offender notification requirements for the specified period of the offender supervision requirement.

Under section 14 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 a Community Payback Order (CPO) may impose one or more of the following requirements:

  1. Offender supervision
  2. Compensation
  3. Unpaid work or other activity
    1. Level 1: 20-100 hours within three months
    2. Level 2: 101-300 hours within six months
      (other Activity [which can be up to 30% of the number of specified hours on the requirement, or 30 hours, whichever is lower] allows the child to undertake activities to develop their interpersonal, educational, and vocational skills to support long-term desistance, with the exact number of ‘other activity’ hours to be determined by the case manager)
  4. Programme requirement (individual or group work)
  5. Residence requirement (specifies where the person is to reside or places they may not visit)
  6. Mental health treatment (distinct from mental health orders)
  7. Drug treatment (distinct from a DTTO)
  8. Alcohol treatment
  9. Conduct (person must refrain from certain actions)

Provisions for a tenth potential requirement – a restricted movement requirement – are included in the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Act 2019.



Six months to three years.


Breaches and compliance

Remittal to Children’s Hearings System (CHS) for disposal

Should a Judge or Sheriff decide to remit a case back to the CHS for disposal, possible outcomes include:

National Outcomes and Standards for Social Work Services in the Criminal Justice System 2010

These standards provide a framework for criminal justice social work practice, including guidance on:

Third Sector organisations

The support services offered as alternatives to custody may be provided by third sector organisations. These organisations may also be involved in providing court reports and support to children as part of the Whole System Approach.

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