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by Joseph Anderson
10 January 2022
Committee sets out proposals to change justice system

Audrey Nicoll MSP

Committee sets out proposals to change justice system

The Scottish Parliament’s Criminal Justice Committee has set out some of the changes it wants to see made in the Scottish justice system.

The committee, which includes MSPs from the SNP, the Conservatives and Labour, has detailed more than 60 recommended actions for the Scottish Government and its partner agencies such as the prison service, courts and prosecutors.

The committee’s recommendations focus on three main areas.

To improve prison and reduce offending, the committee recommends: reintroducing the Throughcare scheme for those leaving custody; ensuring under-18s are in secure care rather than HMPYOI Polmont; tackling the high levels of drugs and the influence of serious and organised crime groups in jails; and giving more access to fresh air and purposeful activity for those in prison.

To improve support for victims and witnesses, the committee recommends: reviewing the Victim Notification Scheme, including assessing whether it may be inadvertently retraumatising victims with unexpected contact; providing those alleging a sexual offence with a single trauma-informed source of contact from reporting until the conclusion of legal proceedings; and changing court buildings to make them less traumatising places for victims and witnesses (e.g. by unexpectedly encountering the accused).

To tackle Scotland’s high drug deaths rate, the committee recommends: rapidly implementing the recommendations of the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce, some of which date from April 2020; and ensuring a co-ordinated approach from the justice, social justice and health sectors to fill the service gap between what is currently being provided to help those with a drug problem and what is needed.

The committee has committed to regularly reviewing progress against these actions across the course of the current parliamentary session.

The convener of the Criminal Justice Committee, the SNP’s Audrey Nicoll, said: “Our inquiries into the Scottish justice sector have exposed once again many deep-rooted problems.

“We know these cannot be solved overnight and there are few easy solutions.

“However, our committee is determined to see progress made in this parliamentary session.

“As a critical friend to the Scottish Government and its justice partners, we want them to use our recommendations to drive forward progress and implement changes.

“We believe we have set out a balanced and proportionate action plan which may go some way to improving the criminal justice sector.

“We’ll be taking stock of progress at regular intervals.”

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