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 Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

Police officers do not monitor or control the conditions that are attached to electronic monitoring. When a breach of those conditions occurs, such as when the offender enters an excluded area or tampers with or removes their tag, the police officers’ response is reactive.

That has raised concerns at Scottish Women’s Aid, Victim Support Scotland and Community Justice Scotland that the response time to react to a breach is too long.

Amendment 146 therefore seeks to ensure that, when there is a suspected breach of a disposal or conditions, the relevant bodies are contacted immediately, or as soon as possible. The relevant bodies are listed as:

“(a) the Police Service of Scotland” and

“(b) such other body as the Scottish Ministers may by regulations specify.”

As the cabinet secretary said, amendment 146 is similar to one that I lodged at stage 2, but it has been revised to take account of the concerns that the cabinet secretary raised at stage 2 about minor breaches being escalated to the police. The amendment now provides for discretion and a proportionate response to any breach by stipulating:

“Immediately or as soon as is reasonably practicable after a suspected breach mentioned in subsection (1) has occurred, a person designated under section 11(1) must notify such bodies mentioned in subsection (3) as they consider appropriate.”

In other words, the amendment allows the designated person to use their judgment about whether they consider that the breach is one that must be responded to immediately by, for example, Police Scotland. As domestic abuse would possibly be covered by conditions, a breach could result in a victim being put in immediate danger, so I hope that the cabinet secretary will support amendment 146. Crucially, it removes the potential for minor breaches—as a result of a technical error, for example—to be escalated to the police, but it provides added protection for victims of domestic abuse.

Amendment 146 also gives clarity to the procedure to be followed, which is why the Law Society of Scotland supports it.