Police Scotland raise concerns over 'burden' caused by community justice changes
MSPs on Holyrood's Justice Committee will start taking evidence on proposed legislation in coming weeks
Police have warned “vague” government proposals to overhaul the delivery of community justice in Scotland are likely to place a significant “burden” on the single force.
Ministers introduced the Community Justice (Scotland) Bill, which will see Scotland’s eight community justice authorities abolished in favour of more local arrangements, before summer recess.
The proposed legislation also seeks to establish a new national body – Community Justice Scotland (CJS) – to oversee community justice.
Though "broadly supportive" of the Bill, it is “rather vague in a number of areas in what it may require Police Scotland to do”, according to a written submission sent by the single force to MSPs on Holyrood’s Justice Committee.
Section 5 of the Bill states that community justice partners, including Police Scotland, “must comply with any reasonable request” from CJS for information, advice or assistance.
“Experience suggests that it is not always straightforward to provide information that constitutes ‘a reasonable request’, and further definition or exemptions would be helpful,” states their submission.
“There is a strong likelihood of significant demand for data from the criminal justice business area within Police Scotland, in relation to what happens after a person enters the criminal justice system.
“Requests may seek further detail on a combination of crime types, offender details and victimisation – only some of which is already currently centrally collated for reporting purposes.
“There is scope for significant challenges for Police Scotland to collate data, both in scale and nature.
“Further ICT work may be required to develop the necessary reporting structures for the data that may be requested.
“This would put a burden on local and national departments in addition to specialist analysts.”
MSPs on Holyrood’s Justice Committee will start taking evidence on the Bill within the next two weeks.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the Bill does not cover all aspects of the new model for community justice, "only those elements which require legislative change".
“The new model has been developed with a range of partners, including Police Scotland, through consultation and discussion which began in 2012 and is ongoing," she said.
"We have published detailed material on the new model over the past 10 months, including our response to the 2014 consultation.
“Guidance on the practicalities of implementing the new model is currently being prepared in discussion with a range of stakeholders and will be issued once the Bill is enacted.
“We look forward to continuing to work with Police Scotland, who are represented on a number of working groups associated with the new model, including the overall Project Board and the National Strategy Steering Group.”
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