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 offences and domestic abuse-related prosecutions and convictions. 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 recorded crime is at a 43-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
‘Justice in Scotland: Vision and Priorities’, published in July 2017, sets out the way in which we will work towards a safe, just and resilient Scotland. It seeks to build on recent success and progress across the Justice portfolio, identifies current and emerging challenges, and sets out our priorities to tackle these challenges.
There are a number of strategic priorities that are key to promoting greater 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. In line with this evidence, we have committed to extend the presumption against short periods of imprisonment to include sentences of 12 months or less once provisions within the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill are fully in force.
There is also a strong focus on tackling violence against women and girls. The proposed introduction of a specific offence of domestic abuse covering both physical and psychological abuse reflects our modern understanding of this behaviour, and will provide police, prosecutors and courts with new powers to bring perpetrators of abuse to justice. The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill also includes provisions to better reflect the impact on children living in environments involving domestic abuse.
Work is being progressed to better support victims and witnesses of crime, in particular child witnesses, and a Bill will be introduced to help further expand the taking of pre-recorded evidence by child and vulnerable adult witnesses. These reforms will help move our criminal justice system closer to achieving our vision that children, wherever possible, should not have to give evidence in court during a criminal trial.
The Scottish Government will progress, with the Scottish Prison Service and other key agencies, the development of a new estate model for females in custody 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 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 2018-19
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, supports this holistic approach to prevent and reduce further offending. Funding for our approach to community justice and reducing re-offending is provided through the Community Justice Services budget, as well as central grants to local authorities for criminal justice social work services.
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. We will extend the presumption against short periods of imprisonment to cover sentences of 12 months or less, and 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 two innovative community-based custody units in Glasgow and Dundee. 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.
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. A Bill is currently before Parliament that seeks to make domestic abuse a specific offence. We will also expand the innovative Caledonian programme so that more male perpetrators of domestic abuse can receive specific rehabilitation services designed to address the issues giving rise to their offending behaviour. During 2018-19, we will ensure continuing investment through the Justice portfolio budget in services to prevent and tackle VAWG and to ensure effective support for the victims of these crimes. This will include investment in measures to improve the experience of victims of rape and other forms of sexual offending.
People of other nationalities make up a large proportion of those who are referred to human trafficking-related services. From January to June 2017, 105 persons recovered in Scotland were officially recorded as being victims of trafficking. 59 per cent of female victims were trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and 82 per cent of male victims. Support services must therefore take account of a wide variety of cultural and social factors, as well as providing psychological trauma support. We will continue to invest in measures to address human trafficking and exploitation and to support its victims. This will include ongoing implementation of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 and taking forward the actions set out in the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy.
Legal aid is a key part of providing access to justice and tackling inequality. 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 expect a report from the chair of the independent review of legal aid in February 2018. Following that, 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. Investment of over £14 million in violence prevention measures and programmes since 2008 includes £8.7 million invested in the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit ( VRU) and £42,000 for Medics Against Violence.
Risks to safety, such as fire, vary by socio-demographic factors, including deprivation and disability. We will increase investment in our fire and rescue service to support their plans to modernise and redesign services to achieve a transformational shift to prevention and collaboration, where the need of local communities is greatest. Transformation will include an enhanced role for fire-fighters to ensure they are trained and equipped to prevent harm to individuals and communities along with having the flexibility to meet new and emerging risks. This includes, for example, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service home fire safety visits which target vulnerable people in the community and assess various aspects of risk within the home beyond fire safety. This preventative and collaborative approach helps build community capacity to respond to the changing risk profiles of our communities, such as positively recognising the ageing population.
For policing, resource will support Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority to implement Policing 2026, the long-term transformational strategy for policing in Scotland. The strategy, which builds on the Scottish Government’s ‘Strategic Police Priorities’, is a direct response to the changing demands policing is facing, with efforts increasingly focused towards addressing vulnerability and the consequences of inequality. It will support efforts to ensure that the police workforce is properly reflective of the people it serves and that Scotland continues to benefit from a modern and responsive police service that is fit for the future.
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. We will also consider the outcome of the independent hate crime review being led by Lord Bracadale.
Following the end of time-limited funding for sectarianism community projects in 2017-18, we will take forward and embed the learning from these along with the recommendations of Dr Duncan Morrow’s review of the implementation of 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 Justice portfolio remains committed to advancing equality. We are taking forward 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.