Chapter 7 Justice
The Justice portfolio is responsible for keeping our communities safe and administering justice in its various forms: civil, criminal and administrative. This includes Scotland's prisons, courts, tribunals, police, fire and rescue services, the legal aid system and criminal justice social work services. The most pressing demands for this portfolio include the changing nature of recorded crime which has seen increasing levels of sexual offence and domestic abuse-related convictions, cybercrime and the ongoing threat from terrorism and extremism. It also includes our cross-government focus on mainstreaming resilience and improving Scotland's ability to anticipate, prevent, prepare, respond and recover from emergencies and disruptive events on an all-risks basis.
While overall crime is at a 42-year low, people living in deprived areas are more likely to experience crime and civil justice problems. The economic and social costs of crime in Scotland are estimated at around £5 billion, and these costs disproportionately affect more deprived communities. People in prison experience multiple disadvantages, with women in the criminal justice system particularly at risk. Whilst there has been a significant decline in youth crime, the number of older people in prison has been increasing steadily over the last 10 years. The Justice portfolio therefore plays a key role in promoting equality by, for example, tackling the causes of crime, which are often rooted in inequality, through an increased emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation. It is also crucial for targeting specific types of crime, such as violence against women and girls, and all forms of hate crime.
Key Strategic Priorities
The portfolio has a number of strategic priorities that are key for equality. These include penal reform, where there is a fundamental shift towards prevention and rehabilitation, informed by evidence that community-based interventions are more effective at reducing re-offending than short-term imprisonment.
There is also a strong focus on tackling violence against women and girls, with the introduction of a domestic abuse bill that reflects modern understandings of abuse and will provide police, prosecutors and courts with new powers to bring perpetrators of abuse to justice. Work is being progressed to better support victims and witnesses of crime, in particular child witnesses.
Although the rate of female imprisonment has slowed in recent years, it has risen faster than that for men over the past decade, particularly for older women. The Scottish Government will progress with the development of a new model for the female custodial estate which will provide women with intensive support to address the causes of their offending behaviour and prevent further re-offending.
People from deprived areas and disabled people are more likely to experience civil justice problems than those in less deprived areas and the general population. Disabled people are also less likely than non-disabled people to have their civil justice problems resolved. The most common problems are issues with home, family or living arrangements, but they also include unfair treatment. We will continue to maintain access to justice for individuals by reforming Scotland's system of legal aid, and progress work to modernise and strengthen family justice.
Equality Implications of the Draft Budget 2017-18
To reduce reoffending and social exclusion, it is essential that we address the underlying causes of offending which can involve multiple inequalities and risk factors, including deprivation, adverse childhood experiences and health problems. The new model for community justice, including the creation of the new national body, Community Justice Scotland, which will come into effect in 2017, supports this holistic approach to prevent and reduce further offending.
A central element of our vision for reducing reoffending is that our criminal justice system uses prison less and has an even stronger emphasis on robust community sentences, including greater use of electronic monitoring. Evidence shows that community sentences are more effective at reducing reoffending than short prison sentences. They can also help prevent some of the detrimental impacts of imprisonment which can be particularly acute for marginalised groups such as women, young people, older prisoners and children of people in prison. In addition to investment to expand the use of electronic monitoring, there will also be a continued focus on community sentences and services to support the reintegration of people leaving prison, such as mentoring services.
We know that many women who offend have multiple disadvantages, including experience of trauma and abuse. The Scottish Government will invest in development work for a new female custodial estate, including a smaller national women's prison and innovative community-based custody units. These facilities will help women in custody to overcome issues such as alcohol and drug abuse, mental health and trauma which evidence shows can drive offending behaviour. We will continue to work with partners to support people in custody with social care needs - including those with social care needs who are part of the growing population of older people in custody.
With sexual offence convictions increasing by 50 per cent over the last five years and domestic abuse cases showing comparable rises in convictions, we recognise that the criminal justice system has an important role, not only in deterring and dealing with perpetrators of domestic abuse, but also in shaping community perceptions and encouraging community intolerance of violence against women and girls.
Accordingly, the Justice portfolio's continuing investment to tackle violence against women and girls ( VAWG) will have an ongoing and positive impact on women and young people. We will introduce a Bill that makes domestic abuse a specific offence and deliver the final year of the First Minister's commitment to invest £20 million over three years for VAWG services to improve support for victims of violence and sexual assault. This investment covers a wide range of services including support and advocacy services, violence prevention and legal support for victims of gender-based violence, as well as investment in the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to ensure domestic abuse cases are heard without undue delay.
Human trafficking can have an acute physical and mental impact on its victims. People of other nationalities make up a large proportion of those who are referred to human trafficking-related services. Support services must therefore take account of a wide variety of cultural and social factors. We will continue to invest in measures to address human trafficking and exploitation and to support its victims. This will include the implementation of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 and the publication of Scotland's first Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy in 2017.
Safeguarding victims is one element of an overarching policy that aims to make Scotland a hostile environment for traffickers and other perpetrators of crime, while identifying and meeting victims' needs. As part of wider criminal justice reforms, including the Justice Digital Strategy, we will continue to respond to the recommendations of the Evidence and Procedure Review, in particular through measures to improve support for child and vulnerable witnesses.
The welfare of children and young people should be at the centre of family justice. We will continue to work on a Family Justice Modernisation Strategy to outline how the Scottish Government believes civil family court proceedings could be improved to be more efficient and child-centred.
Legal aid is a key part of providing access to justice and tackling inequalities. It helps people to defend or pursue their rights if they cannot afford to do so and resolve disputes and problems in their lives. We will engage with the legal profession and others to identify specific measures to reform Scotland's system of legal aid, maintaining access to public funding for legal advice and representation in both civil and criminal cases.
A Safer and Stronger Scotland is one of the Scottish Government's strategic objectives. Continued funding to reduce and prevent violence, reduce the numbers of victims of crime and the extent of accidental harm will improve safety within our communities. Sustained reductions in recorded crime and victimisation show that we have made significant progress toward our aims, but there remain challenges, particularly in the most deprived communities. Although fear of crime is higher for disabled people, women and older people, this is not reflected in statistics on the risks of being a victim of crime. The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey shows that young men are disproportionately more likely to be a victim of crime in general, and are at highest risk of experiencing violent crime.
The Building Safer Communities programme promotes the Christie principles of public service reform (which emphasises prevention and cross-boundary working) in a way which prioritises disadvantaged communities and builds on their assets. Further, the Violence Reduction Unit and Medics Against Violence will continue to focus on prevention and offering support for people to turn their lives around.
People who live in deprived communities are disproportionately affected by crime. Similarly, wider evidence suggests that other risks to safety, such as fire, vary by socio-demographic factors, including deprivation and disability. We will maintain investment in our fire and rescue and police services to enable the delivery of effective and efficient services that reflect the needs of local communities. We will also continue to transform these services by working collaboratively, better equipping them to meet modern risks, prevent harm to individuals and communities and to respond to the changing nature of crime and risk.
This includes, for example, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service home fire safety visits which target people with vulnerabilities in the community and assess various aspects of risk within the home. This preventative and collaborative approach helps build community capacity to respond to the changing risk profiles of our communities ( e.g. positively recognising the ageing population).
For policing, our efforts will involve supporting Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority to deliver our new Strategic Police Priorities which specifically focus on inclusion and the need to reduce inequalities within and across communities. Work is underway to develop a 10-year transformational strategy which will build the service's ongoing efforts to strengthen engagement and support for all communities and to ensure that the police workforce is properly reflective of the people it serves. Preventative action like the multi-agency 'Prevent First' initiative in Ayrshire and 'Operation Pinpoint' in West Lothian will continue to lie at the heart of Police Scotland's work.
Tackling hate crime remains a key focus. We will continue to work closely with the Equalities portfolio to prevent and address all forms of hate crime based on ethnicity (racism), sexual orientation (homophobia and biphobia), transgender identity (transphobia), religion (Islamophobia and sectarianism) and hate crimes against disabled people.
Although the time-limited funding for sectarianism community projects within the Safer and Stronger Communities budget ends in 2016-17, we will continue to take forward and embed the learning from these along with the recommendations of the independent Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland; and we will continue to take a stand against sectarianism wherever it exists.
The responsibility for drug misuse now sits in the Health and Wellbeing portfolio. Funding for secure residential accommodation for children is moving to the Education and Lifelong Learning portfolio from 2017-18.
The justice portfolio remains committed to advancing equality. We are progressing a range of measures to prevent offending and to protect and support various equality groups, including women, children and older people, from the detrimental effects of crime and accidental harm. Taken together, these investments and reforms provide an opportunity to maintain and develop an accessible and effective justice system that can meet our wider ambitions to tackle inequality.
Email: Paul Tyrer