Justice and Safety
The week in review
Among the items on Ministers’ agenda this week were a new strategy for policing modern Scotland, the on-going review of fire and building safety regimes in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and delivering legislation to strengthen access to justice in the civil courts for survivors of childhood abuse.
London Terror Attack
On Monday Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson joined Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Communities Secretary Angela Constance, policy officials and Police Scotland representatives for a Scottish Government resilience (SGoRR) meeting, chaired by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, following a terrorist attack in the early hours of the morning in Finsbury Park, London.
The First Minister said: “This was a horrific attack and my thoughts go out to everyone who has been affected. I know that everyone will be saddened to see yet another terrorist attack. I convened a resilience meeting to ensure that we are closely monitoring the situation. While there is no intelligence of any specific threat to Scotland, Police Scotland remain vigilant and visible across communities to provide reassurance to members of the public. Muslim communities will understandably be anxious just now and it is in these moments that we must come together as a country and unite against extremism and hate from wherever it comes.”
Supporting families visiting prison
Prison Visitor Centres provide a vital service to families visiting loved ones in custody, offering a welcoming environment for children and a place where other relatives can access emotional, practical and financial support. On Monday, a new national performance framework was published by Dr Andrew McLellan, chair of the national steering group for prison visitor centres.
Dr McLellan said: “These services are hugely important to all family members during what can be a very stressful time. For children, the right support is essential to reduce the effects of toxic stress associated with parental imprisonment from having life-long consequences for their health and attainment.”
Welcoming the framework, the Justice Secretary said: “Improving the support for prisoners’ families not only helps to reduce reoffending but it also improves the health and life chances of prisoners and their families. Now all prison visitor centres are working towards achieving the same positive outcomes for the people they support and these national standards are a tool to ensure that there is a high quality service in place at every prison, which supports families and meets their needs.”
A ten-year policing strategy to ensure the service remains equipped to tackle new and emerging threats and meet other demands of modern Scotland was published on Tuesday, following an extensive public consultation.
Chief Constable Phil Gormley said: “The time is now right for Police Scotland to become a fully unified and sustainable organisation. This strategy will enable us to meet the challenge of policing 21st century Scotland and modernising our support structures. Recent events such as the horrifying attacks in Manchester and London and the cyber-attack on the NHS reinforce the need for a modern police service with the flexibility to adapt and transform to meet such complex and growing threats and demands.”
Mr Matheson welcomed the strategy – developed jointly by Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority – in a statement to Parliament.
He said: “As well as maintaining officer numbers for 2017-18, the strategy also proposes a workforce model that frees up officers from support work to increase the number available for frontline policing. Policing 2026 is an ambitious strategy for the future that will help our hard-working police officers and staff provide the best service to the public. I am encouraged to see the commitment to new ways of tackling cyber-crime as well as a strong emphasis on dealing with issues related to vulnerability and mental health. I am also very pleased to see the Strategy’s commitment to building on Police Scotland’s already strong community relations.”
On Thursday Parliament voted to the automatic three-year limit (‘time-bar’) on adult survivors of childhood abuse seeking civil damages in court.
The Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill will mean that cases arising from childhood abuse on or after 26 September 1964 will no longer face the barrier of the limitation period.
Minister for Community Safety & Legal Affairs Annabelle Ewing, who led the Bill through Parliament, paid tribute and thanks to the survivors who she said had been “at the heart” of the process of changing the law.
“I am humbled by the courage they have shown, not only in campaigning for this legislative change but also coming forward and sharing their experiences,” Ms Ewing added.
“While our police and prosecutors continue to pursue perpetrators even many years after their crimes, this Bill will strengthen access to justice through the civil courts.
“It recognises the unique position of survivors of childhood abuse as children who were betrayed by those they should have been able to trust, reflecting the abhorrent nature of the abuse, the vulnerability of the child at the time, and the profound impact of abuse; an impact which lasts well into adulthood and which, itself, prevents people from coming forward.”
You can watch the contributions of all MSPs in the final Stage Three debate on the Bill, opened by the Minister, on the Scottish Parliament video below.
Quality assurance for advice services
Also on Thursday, the Minister welcomed the announcement of the first four advice agencies to receive accreditation under the Scottish National Standards for Information and Advice Providers (SNSIAP).
This enables advice agencies to receive quality-assured accreditation for their work helping clients with housing, welfare benefits and money/debt problems. Accreditation enables agencies to demonstrate to their clients and funders that they are offering a good quality of service. It also provides recognition for staff who are working hard to continuously improving their advice service.
Ms Ewing said: “I am delighted that the first agencies have successfully completed the new accreditation, which aims to strengthen public confidence in the quality of advice provided. I look forward to more advice agencies, across all sectors, taking up this opportunity to demonstrate the high quality of service available to the public.”
Scottish Government funding means agencies can receive accreditation or re-accreditation for free under the process managed by the Scottish Legal Aid Board – which has further information on its website.
We spotted a couple of other blog posts this week focused on action the Scottish Government has been taking to deal with human trafficking and with domestic abuse – both issues that Mr Matheson will be talking more about next week.
On Monday this week Bronagh Andrew from the TARA Service blogged about the Justice Secretary’s recent announcement to improve protection for victims of trafficking by doubling the period of eligibility for support to 90 days.
She comment: “Credit must be given to the government’s Human Trafficking Team, whose open approach to consulting on their Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy and, importantly, a separate consultation on the length of immediate support provided for victims, saw them host five stakeholder events across Scotland, and three additional events for survivors: one for men, one for women and one for children.”
Read the full blog below.
And on Thursday this week – just ahead of Mr Matheson’s appearance at the Justice Committee next Tuesday to outline our plans to strengthen the law against domestic abuse – LGBT Youth Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid launched a powerful new short film exploring lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people’s experiences of coercive control.
“We hope this film will be used widely to prompt discussion on coercive control, and increase recognition that LGBT people experiencing domestic abuse have support options available to them,” said Brandi Lee Lough Dennell, Policy & Research Manager at LGBT Youth Scotland.