Community Justice Interventions

– in the Scottish Parliament on 20th April 2022.

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Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

1. To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to support greater use of community justice interventions. (S6O-00958)

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

For nearly 15 years, this Government has delivered bold and effective justice reforms with a firm focus on early intervention, prevention and rehabilitation. We are currently consulting publicly on a revised national strategy for community justice, which seeks to build on progress to date and encourage a further shift towards greater use of community-based disposals.

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

Will the cabinet secretary share how the commitments in the Promise implementation plan and the recently launched consultation on policy proposals for the children’s care and justice bill support greater use of community justice among children and young people?

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

As the question implies, we owe it to Scotland’s young people, as well as to victims and communities, to promote an evidence-led, progressive and continually improving approach. Both the Promise implementation plan and the consultation on the children’s care and justice bill, which will be the responsibility of Clare Haughey, demonstrate our determination to support children who come into conflict with the law through age-appropriate systems and services.

Our Promise implementation plan makes clear that we will end the placement of 16 and 17-year-olds in young offenders institutions without further delay. We are committed to funding care-based alternatives to custody and we are consulting on new legislation. Our proposals for the children’s care and justice bill include raising the maximum age of referral to the principal reporter to ensure that when a child requires the support and intervention of formal systems, age-appropriate support is available through the children’s hearings system.

We also intend to enhance the offer to victims and ensure appropriate protection, support and information. Taken together, those actions build on the clear synergies between our youth justice vision, which was published in June 2021, and the justice vision that was published in February. We look forward to expanding the successful whole-system approach and focusing on intensive residential and community alternatives across Scotland.

Photo of Russell Findlay Russell Findlay Conservative

Prison is often more appropriate than community service for some criminals, but sheriffs’ hands are being tied. Retired sheriff Douglas Cusine described the “frustrating inadequacy” of Scottish National Party sentencing policies, which he says will be weakened further with plans to automatically release some prisoners even earlier. On occasion, he has passed community service orders when he thought that prison was necessary. Will Keith Brown back our plans to end automatic early release so that criminals can be jailed when a judge deems it appropriate?

Photo of Keith Brown Keith Brown Scottish National Party

Criminals can be jailed when a judge deems it appropriate. In addition to attacking the independent Lord Advocate, the independent Parole Board for Scotland and the independent police service, the Tories are now attacking the Scottish Sentencing Council. It is quite clear that there is a broad-based attack on the justice system as a whole in Scotland, perhaps prompted by the headlines that we have seen down south, which say that the justice system in the rest of the United Kingdom is in complete free-fall. That might be the motivation, but if Russell Findlay looks at the figures, he will see that community disposals are far more effective in reducing reoffending.

Surely all of us, including victims, want to see a reduction in crime, and the most effective way to achieve that is to use community-based disposals where we can, and we will continue to do that.