Custodial Sentences and Weapons (Scotland) Bill

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Justice and Law Officers – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 1st March 2007.

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Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative 2:15 pm, 1st March 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive when it anticipates that local authorities will be in a position to implement the provisions of the Custodial Sentences and Weapons (Scotland) Bill. (S2O-12193)

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

The custodial sentences element of the bill delivers our commitment to end automatic, unconditional early release. The new regime will introduce end-to-end sentence management that will help to tackle reoffending and enhance public protection. The weapons element of the bill permits ministers to introduce a licensing scheme for knife dealers. Both those much-needed elements will come into force as soon as is practicable.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

I regret that the minister made no attempt to answer the question other than to describe what the bill is about, and we are all well aware of that.

The bill will put tremendous strains on local authorities to find, provide, train and pay for extra criminal justice workers within council budgets. Representatives of many councils to whom I have spoken say that they do not have the resources and do not know where the people are going to come from. I repeat the question: when does the minister think that local authorities will be in a position to deal with the bill?

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I hear what Mr Davidson is saying about members understanding the elements of the bill. However, I hope that he also understands the range of reforms that have been introduced in the criminal justice system, including the new community justice authorities, which will take on their full responsibilities from 1 April this year and which are absolutely critical to ensuring the success of the management of offenders both in the prison system and in the community.

I made it clear in the financial memorandum that accompanied the bill that the measures do not come without a cost. We have provided figures for that and have said that we will ensure that the resources are in place.

I suggest—as I have done before—that people have to think more creatively. Rather than thinking simply that the bill is about providing more criminal justice social workers in local authorities, people should acknowledge that the bill is about a fundamental change in the way in which we manage offenders. If we simply think about such things in the way in which we have thought about them in the past, we will miss an opportunity for the future.