Justice and Safety

The week in review

March 31, 2017 by No Comments | Category Civil law, Community safety, domestic abuse, forensics, Justice, Police, Prisons, Reducing Crime, Statistics

Railway policing bill on track

On Tuesday the Cabinet Secretary of Justice Michael Matheson and the Transport Minister Humza Yousaf gave evidence to the Justice Committee on the Government’s plans to integrate British Transport Police in Scotland into Police Scotland following the devolution of legislative responsibility for railway policing to the Scottish Parliament.

Outlining to MSPs some of the benefits, Mr Matheson said: “It will make railway policing in Scotland accountable, through the Chief Constable and the Scottish Police Authority, to the people of Scotland.  It will enhance railway policing in Scotland through direct access to the specialist resources of Police Scotland. It will provide an integrated approach to transport infrastructure policing in Scotland, bringing railway policing alongside policing of roads, seaports, airports and border policing.”

Watch the full committee.

Focus on Scotland’s prisons

HMP Edinburgh - SPSThe work of the Scottish Prison Service was the subject of this week’s BBC Radio 4 ‘Law in Action’ programme.  HMP Edinburgh’s Governor Caroline Johnston told Joshua Rozenburg about work in custody and in communities to help individuals engage with positive opportunities on release. You can listen to the programme online for a limited time

Mr Matheson told the programme: “Having stabilised the prison population, we are now starting to see the population coming down, but there is still much more for us to do in this area.  I’m determined to make sure that, as we move forward with our penal policy, we take an evidence-based approach focused on creating greater community safety and reducing the risk of individuals going on to commit further offences in the future.”

Civil justice stats – home repossessions

Civil justice statistics released this week show the number of cases of home repossession going through the courts fell by 43% in 2015-16.

There were a total of 77,721 civil cases initiated in the year, roughly similar to the last three years and 41% less than in 2008-09. Last year there were 8,875 divorces, the lowest number recorded in Scotland since 1979.

Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Annabelle Ewing, said: I am pleased there has been such a dramatic fall in the number of people seeing their homes being repossessed, which continues a longer downward trend. This is thanks largely to historically low interest rates and is a positive indicator of Scotland’s general economic picture.”

Scottish Police Federation

As the Scottish Police Federation gathered in South Ayrshire for their two-day annual conference, Mr Matheson confirmed to delegates that the Scottish Government will not allow direct entry into policing.

He said: “It is my view that in order to lead – and to command officers under your control – a police officer must first have walked in their boots.”

Mr Matheson used his speech to reinforce the government’s support for the longstanding tradition that the vast majority of Scotland’s police officers are not routinely armed.


Neighbourhood Watch

Ms Ewing got to find out about the work of Neighbourhood Watch Scotland (NHWS) at Drumbrae in Edinburgh on Thursday.

The NHWS team and Chair of the Board outlined their current work and demonstrated the Neighbourhood ALERT messaging system.

The Minister also heard about NHWS plans to update the way people think of it and increase the number of people and communities involved.

NHWS are keen to expand their partnership working and to help support the role of public and other bodies engaged in community safety and community resilience. They are also keen to expand their reach to areas where community capacity is not as traditionally strong with particular work underway to link into Possilpark and Craigmiller.

Improving forensic examinations

Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer will head up a group of experts looking at improving the forensic examination services offered to victims of sexual assaults.

The announcement was made on Thursday as a new report from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) showed some victims faced waits of up to 48 hours or weren’t able to be seen by a female doctor, depending on where in Scotland they were.

The First Minister, Justice Secretary and Health Secretary all backed improvements to services.

Mr Matheson said the report raised important issues and that the government was already addressing and committed to considering the report recommendations and the analysis of a survey of doctors to understand why more women aren’t going into forensic medicine.

Scottish-German engagement

In a big week for Scotland’s place in Europe, Mr Matheson met with Baden-Württemberg Justice and European Affairs minister Guido Wolf on Thursday.

Mr Wolf travelled to Edinburgh to hear more about the Scottish position post-Brexit.

The Scottish Government was clear about our wish to continue to cooperate with our European partners and to preserve the functioning of Scotland’s independent justice and legal system.

Intimate Images

Sharing intimate images of someone without their consent will soon be punishable by up to five years in jail.

Images from an upcoming public information campaign highlighting the new offence – created under the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Act – were revealed on Sunday.

Mr Matheson said: “This campaign has been developed with partners including Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland, ASSIST, Zero Tolerance and others to ensure it reflects what we know is a growing problem that can be extremely cruel and degrading.” The campaign will officially launch later this year.

Evidence from child and vulnerable witnesses

On Tuesday, the Lord Justice Clerk, Lady Dorrian published a new High Court Practice Note as the first step towards transforming the way in which courts take the evidence of child and adult vulnerable witnesses. The practice note provides extensive new guidelines for the process where a vulnerable witness’ examination and cross-examination is recorded in advance of a trial, to help reduce the need for them to give evidence in person in court. The Practice Note was developed by a working group including representatives of the judiciary, the legal profession, justice and children’s agencies, the third sector and academia.

Mr Matheson said: Giving evidence during a criminal trial can be a stressful event for anybody but particularly so for children and vulnerable adult witnesses. We want to ensure that they have all the necessary support to reduce anxiety and ensure they can give their best evidence, while maintaining the necessary rights of accused persons.”


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