Disclosure (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 16th January 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Maree Todd Maree Todd Scottish National Party

We have given a great deal of consideration to the committee’s concerns about the disclosure of other relevant information, or ORI. I assure Mr Johnson that we are not planning to change the process of disclosure—how we make those decisions. What we are planning to do is to communicate better how those decisions are made.

We also seek to reform the process by which some spent convictions can be removed from a higher-level disclosure. There are many sensitive roles for which it is accepted and proportionate that convictions that would otherwise be forgotten still get disclosed. That allows employers to properly consider past conduct before putting someone into a position of responsibility. The Supreme Court has accepted that it is appropriate for us to set out clear thresholds regarding offence type and severity. Having lists and criteria against which disclosure happens enables a proportionate and foreseeable system that can be delivered within reasonable operational limits.

Currently, removing convictions requires a summary application to the sheriff. We have been told that the process is time consuming, expensive and intimidating for potential applicants. The bill will change that, and the new first step will be to make a simple review request to Disclosure Scotland. If Disclosure Scotland decides that the information should be included, the applicant can opt for independent review. I recognise and accept the committee’s position that allowing subsequent reviews of the same information at a later date would enhance proportionality. That means that a state decision to include a conviction could be changed later as time passes or circumstances change. I will therefore lodge a stage 2 amendment to that effect for the committee’s consideration.

As I said, I know that concerns have been raised surrounding ORI and the bill. It is important to remember that the provision of ORI is not something new that is being introduced by the Disclosure (Scotland) Bill. Inquiries following the Dunblane massacre in 1996 and the Soham murders in 2002 highlighted that we needed to better manage information about individuals about whom there are valid safeguarding concerns.