Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 25th June 2019.

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Photo of Daniel Johnson Daniel Johnson Labour

I express my support for amendment 127. It is a positive step forward. My only regret about it is that it does not contain a legal obligation for the guidance to be followed, which would make a substantive difference. I will cover that when we come to risk assessment, later in the debate.

I will express the three reasons for my concern about amendment 124. The first is the rationale. Although I completely agree with the cabinet secretary that we must make a concerted effort to reduce our prison population and that we must seek alternatives to incarceration, I worry that the proposed measure, in making that intention explicit and in having solely that aim, potentially risks the very intent that the cabinet secretary sets out. We will reduce the prison population by reducing offending, not simply by re-categorising people.

Secondly, I worry about the power that the cabinet secretary is giving to ministers in allowing them to alter the minimum threshold for HDC. I worry about whether that is appropriate, because I believe that we should be avoiding short prison sentences. On removing the threshold of four weeks, I wonder what the point of sending someone to prison for less than four weeks is. That is counterintuitive.

Fundamentally—and finally—Parliament has not been able to scrutinise the proposals, which is a matter of huge regret.

For those reasons, I do not believe that amendment 124 can be supported. It perhaps could have been supported if its provisions had been introduced earlier, but I do not believe that they can be supported when the amendment has been lodged at this late stage.