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 Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I thank members for their contributions. I will focus on some of the questions that have been asked of me in relation to amendment 124. I reassure Daniel Johnson that the measures will be subject to the affirmative procedure. Therefore, Parliament will be able to scrutinise and debate any changes.

Let me put on record again—as I did in my opening remarks—that we are not proposing any change to the minimum time period; the aim is simply to allow ministers more flexibility.

On HDC, my belief is that, as John Finnie said, the pendulum has perhaps swung too far in the other direction in that the number of people who are coming out of prison on HDC is very low. A number of members have written to me, expressing their concerns on that very point. As John Finnie suggested, it is not a question of re-categorising people; it is about examining the HDC regime as a whole and seeing where sensible changes can be made, always with the protection of the public foremost in our minds.

On the question of scrutiny, our amendments were lodged by the deadline, as they were meant to be, and this is a good point at which to scrutinise them. Of course, if they could have been introduced earlier, I would have preferred that—members will forgive me for the fact that they were not.

To address John Finnie’s point, we are not proposing any changes to the eligibility criteria, so there will not be a change in the numbers. However, as he is aware, the two inspectorates—HMICS and HMIPS—conducted a follow-up inspection of the review of HDC, and there is a lot in that review that would help to negate and mitigate some of the risk aversion that he, rightly, talks about.

Therefore, with the protection of the public foremost in mind, it is possible to look at the HDC regime and ensure that it is being used in a proportionate and balanced manner to give people the opportunity to reintegrate into their communities and, we hope, to reduce reoffending. I thank Margaret Mitchell for her helpful comments throughout the debate, including the comments on my previous amendment that she made a moment ago.