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03 November 2015
Government minister to appear at committee for a second time over community justice reforms

Government minister to appear at committee for a second time over community justice reforms

A government minister will give evidence before committee for a second time today after MSPs admitted they were “still unclear” on how a proposed overhaul of community justice will work.

Community Safety and Legal Affairs minister Paul Wheelhouse has been asked back by the Justice Committee four weeks on from his first appearance on the Community Justice (Scotland) Bill.

The bill, introduced by ministers before summer recess, will see Scotland’s eight community justice authorities abolished in favour of more local arrangements.


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The proposed legislation also seeks to establish a new national body – Community Justice Scotland (CJS) – to oversee community justice.

However, it has faced criticism from local government concerned with funding set aside for the shake-up as well as members of the third sector and Police Scotland

MSPs wrote to Wheelhouse last week asking for further details of how sentencing reforms currently being consulted on as well as changes to the female prison estate would “interact” with proposals contained in the Bill.

“In particular, we would welcome an explanation of whether you consider that the framework model set out in the Bill would be the most suitable model to support any increase in community disposals and related funding arrangements arising from these two policies,” said a letter sent by the committee convener Christine Grahame.

“We would also welcome a flowchart or diagram setting out how the arrangements and various bodies would fit together and interact under the proposals in the Bill, as we are still unclear as to how the new arrangements would operate in practice.”

Proposals to scrap prison sentences of up to 12 months are included in a government consultation set to close next month while ministers have made clear their intention to scale back on the use of custody for female offenders.

In a written response to MSPs, Wheelhouse - who was already scheduled to appear before the committee to debate amendments to the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Deaths etc (Scotland) Bill - said he is “confident” the new model will support developments on both fronts.

However, in what is an unusual turn of events during Stage 1 of a bill going through parliament, the South Scotland MSP will appear before the committee again to answer questions on the reforms.

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