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New national leadership group to strengthen community justice in Scotland

New national leadership group to strengthen community justice in Scotland

Humza Yousaf - Image credit: David Anderson/Holyrood

A national steering group will meet for the first time today to look at ways to improve the delivery of community justice in Scotland.

The National Community Justice Leadership Group will be co-chaired by Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and COSLA’s communities and wellbeing spokesperson, Councillor Kelly Parry.

Made up of senior leaders from justice, health, local government and social work, group members include Community Justice Scotland chief executive Karyn McCluskey, chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service Colin McConnell, Police Scotland deputy chief constable for local policing Will Kerr and chair of the Parole Board for Scotland John Watt.

The group will consider actions to strengthen community justice services and alternatives to custody, as well as working to increase public and judicial system confidence in community justice as an alternative to prison.

It will also link into other national groups including the Drug Deaths Taskforce and Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group to consider multiple and complex needs.

The Scottish Government has committed to increasing the use of community sentencing, with an extension to the presumption against short prison sentences of less than a year coming into effect on 4 July 2019 and the Management of Offenders Bill, which widens the opportunities for electronic tagging, passed by MSPs in June.

It has increased investment in criminal justice social work to over £100m including an additional investment of £9.5m a year compared with 2015-16 for community justice services to help build capacity.

In addition to this, in 2019-20, it is giving £11.6m of funding to third sector organisations supporting community justice and criminal justice social work services.

Humza Yousaf said: “Our goal is to change attitudes and support a wider cultural shift that goes beyond simply increasing the proportion of sentences served in the community.

“We need to strengthen delivery and improve confidence in community justice interventions at every stage – from pre-prosecution through to court and post-sentencing, including helping people leaving prison.

“Clear leadership is required at every level, bringing together the important work already taking place across justice and other services to prevent offending and victimisation.

“Parliament’s backing for the extension of Scotland’s presumption against short prison sentences showed there is already considerable consensus around our evidence-led approach to preventing reoffending.

“I am looking forward to working with the group to continue driving improvements at pace and scale – ensuring Scotland’s community justice services are the best they can be.”

Kelly Parry added: “Most people understand the difficult circumstances of those who get into trouble with the law and many would consider alternatives to prison if that would reduce the chances of reoffending.

“I welcome the greater emphasis on community alternatives to custody as an alternative which is likely to be more effective.

“However, I recognise that public confidence needs to be developed further in these measures. 

“I am pleased that the National Community Justice Leadership Group has been established to take this broad agenda forward under the joint political oversight of the Scottish Government and Local Government, given the crucial lead role of local authorities in community justice and the role of the public and third sector.”

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