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 Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

Amendment 138 deals with an issue that has concerned me right from the start. The Justice Committee’s stage 1 report recognised at recommendation 182 that:

“Robust risk assessment procedures are critical to the effective use of HDCs and other forms of electronic monitoring. The Committee agrees ... that decisions on electronic monitoring are informed by proper and appropriate assessments.”

I have listened throughout to the representations on the issue, and I acknowledge the cabinet secretary’s willingness to discuss it. However, I still come back to the same principle: surely, before we do anything to increase the number of people who are on electronic monitoring, we must have a robust and trusted assessment tool.

Amendment 138 simply requires the Scottish Government to develop that tool. It also requires the courts to have regard to the tool when disposing of cases, and requires ministers to publish a report on the operation of the risk assessment tool.

At stage 2, it was said that there have been some improvements to HDC assessments, but I come back to the point that we cannot be too restricted in our focus on home detention curfew. We must apply rigorous risk assessment across all early releases from prison. Furthermore, the cabinet secretary said that it was not clear what the tool would look like, but that is for the Scottish Government to determine, as amendment 138 clearly sets out. Flexibility for different forms of release on licence is not precluded.

For those reasons, the bill requires the safety and reassurance that would be provided by a risk assessment tool, and I commend the amendment to members. For similar reasons, and for the avoidance of doubt, we will vote for amendment 139, in the name of Daniel Johnson.

I move amendment 138.