Justice and Safety
The week in review
Our latest weekly round-up of issues and ministerial activities in the Justice and Safer Communities portfolio.
Legal milestone for child abuse victims
This week saw the abolition of long-standing three-year ‘time-bar’ which has prevented survivors of childhood abuse being able to take civil legal action pursuing damages.
Minister for Community Safety & Legal Affairs Annabelle Ewing said that while police and prosecutors continued to pursue perpetrators through the criminal courts, the lifting of ‘time-bar’ would enable survivors to also consider the option of accessing justice through the civil courts.
She said: “This legal milestone would not have happened but for the courage of many adult survivors whose persistence and dedication have shone a light on the dark realities of child abuse. Through their brave testimonies they have made clear the great hurt and damage caused by the very individuals and institutions who should have cared for them. Alongside our national survivor support fund, the establishment of the independent public Inquiry into in-care childhood abuse, and the current consultation on a potential financial redress scheme, this removal of the civil time-bar underlines the Government’s commitment to ensuring Scotland is beginning to make amends for the grave failings of the past.”
Read more about the law change, and links to other information and resources for survivors on the main Scottish Government website.
Proceeds of crime
Monday marked the latest meeting of the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce at Gartcosh, jointly chaired by Michael Matheson and the Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC.
The Lord Advocate updated the taskforce on recent changes to the law, and new powers coming into effect in January, which are making it easier to seize money, assets and property from serious criminals.
£3,650,000 has already been seized by the Crown’s Proceeds of Crime and Civil Recovery teams this year, nearly £1 million more than at the same time last year.
The Lord Advocate said: “The principle underpinning our proceeds of crime laws is simple – criminals should not be allowed to profit from their crimes. Law enforcement agencies will take robust action to remove criminal profits from those who benefit from them.
“The powers we have to target criminal assets are important weapons in tackling criminality, including serious organised crime. Using these powers, we can disrupt the ability of criminal enterprises to generate profit, and so continue to function.”
This week Scotland hosted a major multi-agency counter terrorism exercise. Taking place at various sites around the country, as well as Northumbria, the exercise has allowed the emergency services, Governments and other agencies to practice and plan for terrorist incidents.
The exercise, which was not in response to any specific threat, is the result of over a year of preparation and is part of a series of on–going exercises.
Mr Matheson paid thanks to all of the blue light services, other public servants and volunteers, as well as RBS, for their efforts, both in recent days and over the last year in planning, supporting and taking part in the high-level exercise, working alongside the UK Government and other agencies. He said:
“The current threat level for international terrorism in the UK is severe, meaning an attack is highly likely. Such exercises are essential to robustly test our response in Scotland, including the readiness of our police, other emergency responders and wider public services to respond effectively in the event of a major terrorist incident.”
Read more on the blog here.
Scottish Fire & Rescue Service
Dr Kirsty Darwent was confirmed as the new chair of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service board, replacing the outgoing Pat Watters on 11 December. Dr Darwent has served as deputy chair since 2015, having been on the board since 2012.
Annabelle Ewing said: “I am very pleased to welcome Dr Kirsty Darwent as the new Chair of the Board of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. She has already shown herself to be an asset to the organisation and will ensure continued stability and improvement at one of Scotland’s key public services.
“I am very grateful to Pat for his significant contribution to ensuring our unified national fire and rescue service is well-placed to meet new and emerging challenges and continue keeping our communities safe from harm. I wish him well for the future.”
Glasgow’s first ever conference for licensees, sponsored by Best Bar None, took place at the city’s Radisson Blu Hotel.
Annabelle Ewing delivered a keynote address at the conference, highlighting the progress the Scottish Government has made to lessen the negative impacts alcohol has on Scottish society, and also the legislative changes made to the alcohol licensing regime over recent years to improve the effectiveness of the regime.
Ms Ewing also thanked the trade, for their work on promoting the responsible management and operation of licensed premises, allowing the people of Scotland and visitors to Scotland to enjoy our hospitality and warm welcome.
The voices of young people who contributed to a seminal report on secure care in Scotland have been shared in a new publication from the Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice (CYCJ). ‘Secure Care in Scotland: Young People’s Voices’ presents key messages and calls for action from care-experienced young people, most of whom were in secure care when they talked about their lives and care journeys.
Their accounts were at the heart of the 2016 report Secure Care in Scotland: Looking Ahead, which shared findings from the CYCJ based Secure Care National Project, which was created in 2015 to undertake an independent, analytical and practice focused review of secure care provision in Scotland.
As a result of this work, the Scottish Government committed to establishing a Strategic National Board for secure care provision in Scotland which will give a voice to care experienced young people and involve them in driving forward a long term programme of transformation.
Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Mark McDonald said: “I thank all those who gave such powerful testimony about their lived experience of secure care. Listening to – and acting on – the voices of our most vulnerable young people has to be at the heart of service design here in Scotland. Our young people are telling us that while some things are working well, it is clear there is still more we need to do to improve the experience of and outcomes for young people in secure care.”