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Strategy for Justice

In September 2012, the Scottish Government published its Strategy for Justice in Scotland, setting out a "distinctive, outcomes-focused and evidence-based approach". The strategy outlines plans for a collaborative approach across the public sector and sets out a performance framework to track progress towards shared outcomes.  

In July 2017, the Scottish Government published Justice in Scotland: Vision and Priorities, setting out its vision for ‘A just, safe and resilient Scotland’ . A number of outcomes are included in the plan, on creating safer, cohesive and resilient communities, prevention and early intervention, proportionate, fair and effective interventions, and person-centred, modern and affordable public services. A Delivery Plan has also been published, which sets out key actions for 2017/18 under a range of priorities.

Key actions planned by the Scottish Government relevant to health and social care include:

  • taking forward necessary actions to improve the delivery of health and social care services for people in prison and for those returning from prison to their communities
  • working with the NHS and others to address alcohol misuse, focusing on prevention and early intervention activity in justice settings
  • developing trauma-informed practice across the sector, in part to address some of the challenges presented by childhood adversity.

The Justice Board, which includes Scottish Government Directors and the heads of partner justice organisations, will continue to monitor progress against the Vision and Priorities.  

Progress in delivering the Vision and Priorities for justice in Scotland has been set out by the Scottish Government. The publication paper outlines work over the past year to achieve more than 80 key actions identified in the Justice Vision and Priorities for Scotland and highlights further actions being taken forward over 2018-19. Actions achieved include the establishment of a new Health and Justice Collaborative and the opening of four new prison visitor centres.

Reducing Reoffending Programme

One of the 12 priorities in the Strategy for Justice is reducing reoffending. The Scottish Government's Reducing Reoffending Programme includes work with partners across the justice system, working with people who have offended persistently to reduce crime, victimisation and the negative effect these can have on society and the economy.

Phase 1 of the Programme put in place the foundations for credible alternatives to prosecution and custody. This includes the introduction of the Whole System Approach with young people who offend.

Phase 2 focused on making sure people who have offended use services and make the most of opportunities so that they fulfil their responsibilities as citizens by moving away from offending. 

Preventing Offending by Young People

In June 2015 the Scottish Government published its new youth justice strategy for 2015 – 2020. 'Preventing Offending – Getting it right for children and young people' is designed to build on progress made since the 'Framework for Action' in 2008 moved towards a child-centred, preventative approach, in line with Getting it Right for Every Child and provisions in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act.

The new strategy focuses on the following priority themes: Advancing the Whole System Approach, Improving Life Chances and Developing Capacity and Improvement. A Youth Justice Improvement Board has been established, with dedicated groups set up to support the priority themes.

Other documents:

Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill

The Scottish Government announced, as part of its legislative programme for 2017-18, that a Bill to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12 years would be introduced. The legislation includes measures for exceptional cases where it is necessary to investigate harmful behaviours by those under 12 years old and to recognise the impact on victims.

The Bill was published in March 2018 and will undergo Parliamentary scrutiny including by the Equalities and Human Rights Committee

Community Justice

In December 2012, the Scottish Government launched a consultation on Redesigning the Community Justice System, outlining possible options for reform as part of the Reducing Reoffending Programme. 

Following further consultation, in December 2014 the Scottish Government confirmed its plans for community justice reform. The Community Justice (Scotland) Bill was introduced in May 2015 and passed by the Scottish Parliament in February 2016.

The Community Justice (Scotland) Act establishes a new national body, Community Justice Scotland, to oversee community justice while a set of community justice partners with responsibility for delivering and monitoring community justice services at a local level will be established. In addition, the Act:

  • Places responsibility for local planning and monitoring of community justice services with a defined set of local community justice partners;
  • Places duties on these community justice partners to engage in local strategic planning and be accountable for this;
  • Require the development of a national strategy and a performance framework in relation to community justice;
  • Promotes a focus on collaboration – including the opportunity to commission, manage or deliver services nationally where appropriate.

The Act also enables Community Justice Scotland to make recommendations to Scottish Ministers on any action which it considers necessary to deliver improved outcomes. 

At the request of the Scottish Government, the Care Inspectorate led on the development of a self-evaluation model for community justice in Scotland, to help support and build capacity for self-evaluation for improvement. The self-evaluation model sits within the Outcomes Performance and Improvement (OPI) Framework, which Scottish Government and partners have developed. 

The Scottish Government announced the appointment of Karyn McCluskey as Chief Executive for Community Justice Scotland. The new organisation formally launched in April 2017 and will develop expertise and provide advice to Ministers and local government leaders to strengthen how public services, third sector and other partners work together to prevent and reduce further offending.

A National Strategy for Community Justice has been published to deliver a “decisive shift” in the balance between community and custodial sentences by increasing the use of community-based interventions and reducing the use of short term custodial sentences.

The strategy also highlights the importance of the role of the third sector in helping to improve outcomes for people and communities through joined-up working. The strategy confirms an Implementation Group for the National Strategy for Community Justice will be established to develop and take forward an Implementation Plan in collaboration with stakeholders, including Community Justice Scotland.

Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Bill

The Scottish Government has introduced new draft legislation to enable greater use of pre-recording of evidence for child and other vulnerable witnesses. The Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Bill  includes provisions to ensure that in certain solemn criminal proceedings the court must enable any child, or those deemed vulnerable, witnesses to give their evidence in advance of the hearing. 

Prison Monitoring Reforms

The Scottish Government has announced new reforms to improve the way in which prisons are monitored in Scotland. The Government plans to:

  • Establish a new independent monitoring service for Scottish Prisons
  • Ensure all aspects of prisons are fully and independently monitored
  • Provide a system where improvements can be made to conditions in prisons and the treatment of prisoners should they be needed
  • Meet Scottish Government obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) and the National Preventative Mechanism (NPM)
  • Give Independent Prison Monitors powers to visit any prison without prior notice, at any time, access any part of a prison, speak to any prisoner privately and investigate any matter a prisoner brings to them

The new service will be reviewed regularly through an Advisory Group set up by the Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, which will have an independent Chair and include representatives from the Scottish Human Rights Commission alongside other agencies.

Health and social care in prisons

In 2011 responsibility for the provision of healthcare in prisons transferred from the Prison Service to the NHS, and is now the responsibility of the local Integration Authority. 

In February 2017, the Scottish Parliament's Health and Sport Committee launched an inquiry to consider how health and social care is delivered in prisons, as well as the effectiveness of social care in prisons. 

After holding evidence sessions throughout the Spring, the Committee published its report on healthcare in prisons in May 2017. The report urged the Scottish Government to prepare a strategic plan covering prison social and healthcare.

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, wrote to the Committee to confirm the Scottish Government has established a Health and Justice Collaboration Improvement Board, cochaired by the Director-General, Health and Social Care and Chief Executive of NHS Scotland, Paul Gray, and the Director General, Education, Communities and Justice Paul Johnston.

The Board will bring together senior leaders from across Health and Justice to improve outcomes for people and communities, support ambitions to reduce health inequalities and risk of offending, improve performance and achieve greater value for money across the whole system, improve collaborative working and prioritise prevention. The Board met for the first time in September. 


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