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Strengthening community justice

Published: 19 Nov 2015 17:00
Part of:
Law and order

Broad support for new model to prevent and reduce further offending.

Plans to strengthen the community justice system in Scotland have passed Stage 1 at the Scottish Parliament.

The Community Justice (Scotland) Bill lays the groundwork for a new model designed to support an increase in the use of community sentences, a reduction in the use of short prison sentences and improved prospects for offenders returning to their communities.

These improvements are part of the Scottish Government's commitment to significant reform of penal policy in Scotland and wider approach to promoting social justice and tackling inequality. The aim is to reduce reoffending and move away from ineffective short term prison sentences, in favour of more effective community sentences.

The Bill received broad support from the Justice Committee during the Stage 1 debate today.

The Community Justice (Scotland) Bill gives responsibility for planning and monitoring community justice services to local partners who will be accountable for successful delivery. The Bill will also require a national strategy and performance framework for community justice to be developed, and create a national body to provide leadership, promote innovation and give assurance on improved outcomes for Scotland's communities.
Opening the debate Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said:

"I welcome the Committee's endorsement for the need to improve community justice and its broad support for the general principles of the Bill.

"This is an important time for community justice in Scotland. We have made clear our commitment to reducing reoffending and the harm it causes to individuals, families and communities.

"Our vision for a fairer justice system in Scotland reflects the values of a modern progressive nation. We are working towards a position where prison sentences, and particularly short term sentences, could be used less frequently, with a stronger emphasis on effective community sentences to address the underlying causes of offending.

"We have worked closely with stakeholders over the last three years to design this new model which puts decision making into the hands of people who know their communities best and understand the problems that are unique to their area. These local arrangements will be complemented by leadership at a national level with the creation of new public body Community Justice Scotland.

"I believe the proposals contained within the Community Justice Bill will deliver more effective community justice in Scotland's communities, through stronger leadership and better strategic direction.

"I have already signalled to the Committee some areas where we are planning to amend our proposals in response to engagement with stakeholders, such as in a more formal recognition of the role of the Third Sector. I look forward to continuing our work with partners and other interested organisations as this important Bill makes its way through the parliamentary process."

Notes to editors

The defined set of local community justice partners includes local authorities, NHS boards, Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Health and Social Care Integration joint boards, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and Scottish Ministers (which in practice will mean the involvement in community justice planning of the Scottish Prison Service and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service).

Community Justice Scotland will evaluate community justice interventions, ensure best practice and, where necessary, be able to drive improvement in delivery across Scotland