16.04.2012: Prison visitation
Mary Fee (Lab) asked whether the Scottish Government thinks every child has the right to visit a parent who is in prison and, if so, whether this right can be withdrawn as a disciplinary measure against a parent.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said prison rules provide that persons of a prisoner’s choice must be allowed to visit.
“The rules also provide various punishments in relation to a breach of discipline by a prisoner, but these do not include withdrawal of this right to a visit by a child,” MacAskill added.
“The rules also provide that the governor may, however, in the interest of security, prohibit a prisoner from receiving a visit from any person, terminate a visit to a prisoner or order that a visit must be held in closed visiting facilities. This may, for example, be for the protection of the child.” Fee asked what is done to assist families visiting prisoners.
MacAskill said all prisons have a Family Strategy Group, which comprises a range of interested parties working together to improve services for families affected by imprisonment. There are also family contact officers in every prison who give advice and support to prisoners and their families.
He added: “Financial help is available through the Assisted Prison Visits Scheme for relatives who wish to visit a family member in prison. The Scottish Prison Service supports a helpline service provided by Families Outside, which includes help and advice on visits, and also works with a number of organisations who assist with transport to prisons for visits.” Fee also asked what alternative means of communication are available to children to contact a parent in prison.
MacAskill said: “The Prison and Young Offenders (Scotland) Rules 2011 provide for prisoners to send and receive letters. The rules also provide for prisoners to make telephone calls. Children can use the “email a prisoner.com” scheme, where it operates, to email their relative in custody.” Kezia Dugdale (Lab) asked how the Scottish Government monitors and collates figures relating to reports of cyberbullying to the police.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the police recorded crime data collected centrally is based on an aggregate return from each of the eight police forces in Scotland. He added that it is published in the annual Recorded Crime in Scotland statistical bulletin.
He added: “Whilst the term cyberbullying is not a specific offence in itself, cyberbullying would be recorded by the police as an offence under the relevant legislation, depending on the nature of the offence itself.
“As such, cyberbullying may be recorded under different crime and offence codes included within the classification system used centrally and may not be identifiable separately.” 16.04.2012: Cyber crime Written question Dugdale asked how many reported incidents of racism in the last year, for which figures are available, involved an online element.
MacAskill replied: “Information held centrally on the number of racist incidents recorded by the police cannot identify whether the incident involved an online element.
“The 2012-13 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey, however, includes a new section on harassment. This will provide an estimate of how many people have been insulted, pestered or intimidated in the last 12 months by anybody who is not a member of their household.
“The survey will also establish whether there was any racial motive for the harassment and the means by which individuals were harassed, including (as separate categories) via texts or email, or in writing via the internet, such as a social networking site.” Review 18.04.2012: Stalking Awareness Day A review of bail is under way to ensure public safety is “top of the agenda” in cases such as stalking and domestic abuse, a leading law officer has announced.
Solicitor General Lesley Thomson QC described the Crown Office action to an audience at an event marking National Stalking Awareness Day at the Scottish Parliament.
Expanding on the theme later, she said: “It’s to make sure that when we’re considering either custody or bail at that initial court stage we have all the right information to ensure that the priority of public and personal safety is top of the agenda.
“It is general but it is particularly relevant to stalking because in many instances of stalking we’ll be dealing with perpetrators who don’t have a background already, which can also happen in domestic abuse cases. It’s about ensuring that you appropriately risk-assess at that point and you have the right information to do that.” The review is expected to conclude next month.
Thomson was among speakers, including Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, brought together as part of a UK anti-stalking alliance.
The event was hosted by Ann Moulds who was subjected to a two-year campaign by a stalker and helped bring about a change in Scots law in 2010.
She said: “The past three years has seen some ground breaking achievements in Scotland with changing attitudes and the law as regards stalking. Stalking is now a recognised offence across the whole of the UK. National Stalking Awareness Day will ensure that the spotlight stays on stalking.” Anti-stalking laws were introduced in Scotland to help protect victims and to reflect the seriousness of the crime. Before 2010 stalking was prosecuted as a form of harassment under breach of the peace.
Prime Minister David Cameron announced earlier this month that stalking will be recognised as a criminal offence in England and Wales. Not restricted to stalking, the Crown Office review looks at bail across the system.