Justice and Safety
The week in review
Welcome to the final ‘Week in Review’ of this Parliamentary session. As Parliament begins its summer recess we’ll being pausing our weekly round-up for a few months. We’ll be back in September, but in the meantime here is some of the week just gone.
British Transport Police
Railway policing will come under the command of Police Scotland after legislation was passed by the Scottish Parliament following a stage 3 debate on Tuesday. The move ensures that the expertise of British Transport Police officers and staff will be backed by the specialist resources of Police Scotland.
Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said:
“Scotland’s railways are a vital part of our infrastructure and we highly value the officers and staff whose dedication and expertise keeps our railways safe. Over the coming months and years we will keep working with passengers, railway staff, police officers and all partners on a smooth transition which will enhance the already high standards of safety and security on our railways.”
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson added:
“We know that preserving railway expertise is vital and Police Scotland have already confirmed their plans to maintain a specialist railway policing function within the wider service. Making this change gives our railway officers access to the specialist resources of the UK’s second largest police force including, crucially, counter-terrorism capabilities.”
British Transport Police’s 224 officers and staff will join Police Scotland with a statutory guarantee that they can stay within railway policing under the new arrangements, due to come into force in 2019.
Figures released this week show the quantity and number of seizures made by the police for a number of drugs such as cocaine, heroin and cannabis products in 2014/15 and 2015/16.
The Scottish Government continues to tackle the damaging impact of drugs in Scotland and drug use falling in the general population. We also know that improvements in intelligence and information gathering has led Police Scotland to a number of successful operations in taking illegal substances off Scotland’s streets.
The number of prosecutions and convictions for drug offences has also fallen. We are committed to doing everything we can to tackle the scourge of illegal drugs by applying the full force of the law to dealers who peddle misery that blights the lives of so many, while supporting those living with an addiction.
Legislation to update contract law cleared the latest stage in parliament this week. Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Annabelle Ewing gave evidence to the Committee for Delegated Powers and Law Reform on the Contract (Third Party Rights) (Scotland) Bill.
The Bill will ensure that third party rights –rights a person has under a contract they are not the party to – will be provided for in legislation. Provisions include setting out when someone who is not party to a contract gets third party rights and providing third parties with the same remedies as a contracting party.
Ms Ewing said: “Contracts form part of everyday life and third party rights can provide important benefits or protections. This area of law is ripe for reform and this bill will enable the creation of third party rights which may be beneficial to individuals and families as well as businesses.”
Michael Matheson outlined the Government’s plans to strengthen the law to tackle coercive and controlling behaviour to the Justice Committee as MSPs concluded their Stage One evidence-gathering on the Domestic Abuse Bill.
Key to discussions were around the definition of ‘psychological harm’ contained within the offence and ensuring the harm to children is recognised within the Bill. You can watch the session, below, from the Scottish Parliament’s YouTube channel.
Views are being sought on the best way to spare child witnesses from having to give evidence during criminal trials. A new consultation seeks views on the Government vision that all child witnesses should have their evidence recorded as early as possible, and asks how a model for prerecording evidence could work best for Scotland.
Mr Matheson said: “Giving evidence to a court can be extremely difficult and emotional for anyone, particularly a child or vulnerable witness. Making sure those witnesses feel safe, secure and able to share their account of events effectively not only protects them from ongoing risk, but helps them give the best evidence.”
Summer violence crackdown
Police Scotland launched a three-month national campaign on summer violence this week to tackle alcohol-related violence, offensive weapons and disorder and anti-social behaviour.
Delivered by local police divisions and known as Operation Myriad, it will target hot spots specific to their local violence profile.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams said: “Tackling violent crime and disorder is a priority for us and Operation Myriad is a great example of the local work being undertaking to tackle this issue. Whilst overall violent crime continues to drop across the country, we have seen increases in some specific crime types such as murder, serious assault and robbery.
“Violent crime has a substantial economic and social cost to Scotland’s communities and it is really clear that the over consumption of alcohol is a major factor. Over the summer ahead local officers will be working closely with the licensed trade to implement measures that can reduce violence such as ‘Best Bar None’ staff training, or education and diversionary work with young people on the triggers and consequences of violence.”
From today, the police and courts will have greater powers to protect the public from perpetrators of human trafficking and exploitation.
Trafficking and Exploitation Prevention Orders (TEPOs) can now be used to impose restrictions such as employing staff, working with vulnerable people or travelling to certain countries on people convicted of trafficking and exploitation offences.
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said:
“We will continue to make Scotland an increasingly hostile place for those who treat other human beings as commodities. These new powers for the police and courts will help to further protect the public from harm.
“We have already strengthened the law, creating a specific offence of human trafficking for the first time. Now we are making sure that action can be taken when a person poses a continuing risk.”
Mr Matheson also attended a trafficking stakeholder forum this week where he previewed the Scottish Government’s new awareness-raising campaign, which you can see below.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Community Justice Scotland has been holding events around Scotland to inspire discussion on how best to bring change, what success in community justice looks like, for us and our communities.
Speakers included experts in the field like Karyn McCluskey, Professor Mike Nellis, John Scott QC and Shami Chakrabarti as well as those who have turned their lives around with support from community justice professionals.
Culminating in Edinburgh today, the events will help inform the new body’s approach for promoting world-leading standards of community justice across Scotland.
Have a great summer!