Section 25 — Application for removal from list

Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 9:16 am on 8th March 2007.

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Photo of George Reid George Reid None 9:16 am, 8th March 2007

Group 2 is on removal from list: prescribed period. Amendment 29, in the name of the minister, is the only amendment in the group.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

I thank Iain Smith for his kind words.

Amendment 29 clarifies, in response to concerns that Iain Smith expressed, arrangements for applications for removal from the list. As it is currently drafted, the bill allows ministers to prescribe minimum periods before individuals can apply for removal from the list. The committee's discussion of the matter showed that a certain ambiguity existed.

The amendment clarifies that such periods cannot be prescribed in relation to specific individuals. It means, for example, that ministers cannot specify that John Smith cannot apply for removal for seven years, but that Joe Bloggs has to wait only four years. It was never the policy intention to set specific time limits for particular individuals after listing them. I was therefore happy to lodge amendment 29, which puts the matter beyond doubt.

That said, the minimum period might depend on the circumstances relating to a listing decision. For example, the prescribed period for individuals who are listed for a childhood offence may be shorter than that for individuals who committed an offence as an adult. However, that will be achieved through regulations that will identify particular sets of circumstances in advance, rather than particular individuals in retrospect.

I move amendment 29.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

The issue has exercised me throughout our consideration of the bill, and I am still not entirely convinced that the wording that the minister has come up with is entirely clear and that no areas of doubt exist.

Section 25(3) states:

"An application for removal from the list is competent only if ... it is made after the end of such period as may be prescribed (beginning on such date as may be prescribed)".

I am still not entirely clear how amendment 29 relates to the words

"such date as may be prescribed".

The problem is that one may want to consider the date on which an offence was committed, rather than when the person was convicted, given that there could be a considerable time lapse between those two dates. If two people were in similar circumstances but one person was convicted more quickly than the other, the person who was convicted more quickly would be able to apply for removal from the list more quickly. There seems to be an inconsistency. I am not sure how one would apply the provisions in the section and the amendment to a time period and a

"date as may be prescribed".

Perhaps the minister will clarify the matter.

Photo of Robert Brown Robert Brown Liberal Democrat

We are getting into a somewhat esoteric dispute about the amendment's wording, but the difficulty that Iain Smith mentioned does not arise.

The amendment states:

"A period may not be prescribed under subsection (3)(a) in relation to a particular individual."

That refers to both prescriptions. The distinction is that which I explained, between prescribing things at the time of listing an individual and laying down circumstances in advance that apply generally to certain classes of people.

Obviously, these matters will be the subject of regulations and any further issues relating to them can be explored during the consultation on the regulations. However, I do not think that the difficulty that Iain Smith fears arises.

Amendment 29 agreed to.