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

An amendment in exactly the same form as amendment 144 was defeated at stage 2, so I am surprised that it has been lodged at stage 3.

As Liam Kerr has explained, the amendment seeks to place a new obligation on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service to make a summary of evidence provided in a case available to local authorities exercising their social work function. When we discussed the issue previously at committee, John Finnie asked Liam Kerr about the practicalities of that, who would produce the summary and what its status would be. We did not get answers to those questions then, and I am not convinced we have got them from Mr Kerr’s remarks today.

Fulton MacGregor pressed Liam Kerr—quite forensically, I thought—about whether he had had any discussions with Social Work Scotland, social workers or, indeed, the relevant agencies about the amendment. The answer that Liam Kerr gave was a categorical no. I am interested in whether he has now had discussions with Social Work Scotland or, indeed, the relevant agencies. I am happy to give way, if he wants to say that he has.

If we are seeking to improve the process of risk assessment, it is crucial that we are led by the considerations of the Risk Management Authority about what information is most relevant to risk. Accordingly, we need to be cautious as parliamentarians that we do not seek to pre-empt those considerations and predetermine the information that is to be considered as having a bearing on risk.

Amendment 144 would extend across all forms of court-imposed electronic monitoring. A social work report is prepared for the court when considering the imposition of a restriction of liberty order—an RLO—so social work would be aware of the background to the cases anyway. Therefore, there would seem to be limited merit in requiring the court to provide to the local authority information that it is already likely to have or to be aware of. In addition, social work involvement in monitoring an individual serving a community sentence varies depending on the community sentence imposed. For example, there is no requirement for a supervising officer to be appointed by the local authority for an individual sentenced to an RLO. The provision of a summary of the evidence in those circumstances would clearly be a pointless exercise.

In practical terms, I also note that it is not clear how the court would be able to identify which local authority is the relevant authority at the time of sentencing.

I draw Liam Kerr’s attention to amendment 126, in my name, which would create a duty to co-operate between, among others, the Scottish ministers and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service. That duty to co-operate would include the sharing of information. That would address Liam Kerr’s concerns about the sharing of information, but would—rightly—retain the flexibility for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service to determine what information it can usefully and practically provide.

Amendment 144 presents the same challenges as its predecessor did when it was discussed at stage 2. I ask Liam Kerr not to press amendment 144. If it is pressed, I urge members to reject it.