MSPs unveil action plan for urgent reforms across Justice Sector

10.01.2022

The Scottish Parliament’s Criminal Justice Committee is detailing some of the short- and long-term changes it wants to see made in the Scottish justice sector in a new report published today.

Following a series of hearings looking at justice issues including:

• the impact of COVID on the sector,
• courts,
• prisons and prison reform,
• victims’ rights and support,
• violence against women and girls,
• youth offending, community justice solutions and alternatives to custody,
• legal aid, and
• the misuse of drugs and the criminal justice system,

the Committee is setting out the actions it wants to see taken to improve outcomes in these areas, and attempting to find solutions to some of the stubborn problems in the system.

Among the more than 60 actions it has set out for the Scottish Government and its partner agencies such as the prison service, courts and prosecutors are:

• Improving prisons and reducing reoffending, including by:
- reintroducing the Throughcare scheme for those leaving custody,
- Ensuring under-18s are in secure care rather than HMPYOI Polmont,
- tackling the high levels of drugs and the influence of serious and organised crime groups in jails, and
- giving more access to fresh air and purposeful activity for those in prison.

• Improving support for victims and witnesses, including by:
- Reviewing the Victim Notification Scheme, including assessing whether it may be inadvertently retraumatising victims with unexpected contact;
- Providing those alleging a sexual offence with of a single trauma-informed source of contact from reporting until the conclusion of legal proceedings;
- changing court buildings to make them less traumatising places for victims and witnesses (e.g. by unexpectedly encountering the accused).

• Taking action to tackle Scotland’s high drug deaths rate:
- rapidly implementing the recommendations of the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce, some of which date from April 2020;
- Ensuring a co-ordinated approach from the justice, social justice and health sectors to fill the service gap between what is currently being provided to help those with a drug problem and what is needed.

The Committee has committed to regularly reviewing progress against these actions across the course of this Parliamentary session, and will ensure progress can be tracked publicly on the Committee’s web pages.

Committee Convener, Audrey Nicoll MSP, said:

“Our inquiries into the Scottish justice sector have exposed once again many deep-rooted problems.

“We know these cannot be solved overnight and there are few easy solutions. However, our Committee is determined to see progress made in this parliamentary session.

“As a critical friend to the Scottish Government and its justice partners, we want them to use our recommendations to drive forward progress and implement changes.

“We believe we have set out a balanced and proportionate action plan which may go some way to improving the criminal justice sector.

“We’ll be taking stock of progress at regular intervals during the remainder of this parliamentary session.”

Background

The full report, including the action plan, can be found here: https://www.parliament.scot/chamber-and-committees/committees/current-and-previous-committees/session-6-criminal-justice-committee/business-items/priorities-in-the-justice-sector-and-an-action-plan

At the start of the new parliamentary session in September and October 2021, the Committee held introductory round table meetings on key areas in the criminal justice sector. Information on these meetings is available here.

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