Justice and Safety
The week in review
This week’s round-up includes Justice Secretary Michael Matheson’s visit to HM Prison Edinburgh, Police Scotland figures for reports of domestic abuse over the festive period and Community Safety & Legal Affairs Minister Annabelle Ewing’s visit to Coatbridge Fire Station to hear views about service transformation plans from frontline crews.
No let-up in tackling domestic abuse
On Monday Police Scotland reported that the number of domestic abuse cases had dropped by more than 6% over Christmas and New Year compared to the same period 12 months previously.
Responding, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Between the new domestic abuse legislation progressing through Parliament and the Police’s excellent #every9minutes campaign, the message should be clear for perpetrators about our determination to stop this kind of offending. But we will not rest until it’s a crime of the past. Domestic abuse in all its forms has no place in Scotland, and it’s our ambition to rid the country of it entirely. I commend the Police for this year’s campaign – turning the language of abusers against them, and their determination to ensure perpetrators are held to account.”
"On New Year’s Day alone, traditionally a day of the most heightened risk, the number of incidents reported reduced from 393 on 1/1/17 to 366 on 1/1/18. This means that there were nearly 30 fewer calls on that one day reporting incidents of violence & abuse to the police." 3/3
— Police Scotland (@policescotland) January 15, 2018
Purposeful activity in prisons, in communities
The Justice Secretary witnessed some of the great projects which encourage and enable men and women at the prison to give back to the community, including bike repair, volunteering at the tools workshop, helping with the upkeep of the hens in the ‘henetentiary’ and the life skills centre for women prisoners.
Community payback orders
As many parts of the country experienced considerable snowfall this week, the value of community payback was again evident on the streets of Perth & Kinross. The P&K Unpaid Work team are an integral part of the response to snow-clearing and gritting. They have an agreement with the roads department that whenever it snows, they deploy to a range of sheltered and pensioners’ accommodation across the county to clear the paths and pavements. This picture shows the team clearing the paths and pavements outside pensioners’ accommodation in Blairgowrie.
You can also read a blog, published this week, about the impact of Community Payback Orders in Fife.
Civil Litigation Bill
The Scottish Parliament endorsed the general principles of the Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill, following a Stage One debate led by Minister for Legal Affairs Annabelle Ewing on Tuesday.
The legislation follows a two-year review led by Sheriff Principal Taylor into the issues surrounding the expenses and funding of civil litigation in Scotland. The Review highlighted how the potential costs involved in civil court action can deter many people from pursuing legal action, even where they have a meritorious claim.
Ms Ewing told MSPs: “There has been an overall, and continuing, decrease in civil litigation in Scotland of no less than 41% since 2008-09. This should be a source of concern for all of those who care about the provision of access to justice in Scotland and indeed the health of a separate Scots civil law jurisdiction. This Bill will therefore implement the major recommendations made by Sheriff Principal Taylor in order to begin to address this situation by making the cost of going to court more affordable and more predictable.”
You can watch a video of Tuesday’s Stage One debate on the Scottish Parliament’s YouTube channel.
Offensive Behaviour at Football & Threatening Communications Act
As well as highlighting that a 2015 YouGov poll found that 83% supported laws to tackle behaviour such as offensive singing and chanting at and around football matches, the Minister also noted that the report showed a range of organisations having highlighted real concerns to MSPs about depriving Scotland’s law enforcement agencies of the legislation without putting a viable alternative in place.
Commenting on the Justice & Safety blog, the Minister for Community Safety & Legal Affairs said: “We share those manifest concerns that repeal will send entirely the wrong message, leaving vulnerable communities feeling exposed to abuse and prejudice and putting Scotland behind the rest of the UK in terms of protection from incitement to religious hatred, currently provided by Section 6.
“Singing songs about terrorism, mocking incidents involving loss of life and being hateful towards some of our most vulnerable communities with no regard for the impact of their wilful behaviours is not acceptable in a modern Scotland.”
Fire Service transformation plans
The Minister also met with Kirsty Darwent who recently took up the post of Chair of the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service.
With an increasing emphasis on prevention, as well as new and emerging challenges for the service, the total number of fires across Scotland is down 40% in the last decade, while at the same time fire casualties have fallen 31%.
You can read more about the service’s plans for transformation on the SFRS website.
Tackling sexual offending among young people
The first meeting of the Expert Group on Preventing Sexual Offending involving Children and Young People taking place today. Read more about them here: https://t.co/VTzaOgMt75 #endGBV #justicepriorities pic.twitter.com/MLGjvVhN0Y
— ScotGov Justice (@ScotGovJustice) January 19, 2018
On Friday, the first meeting of the Expert Group on Preventing Sexual Offending among Children & Young People took place in Edinburgh.
The group is made up representatives of a wide range of groups including Rape Crisis Scotland, Social Work Scotland, Police Scotland and Young Scot.
Michael Matheson and Solicitor General Alison Di Rollo QC announced plans to establish the group in September following the findings from research which the Justice Secretary had commissioned earlier last year to explore in more detail the rise in overall recorded sexual crimes.
Chaired by former Crown Office chief executive Catherine Dyer, the group’s remit includes all sexual offending and harm, with a particular focus on cyber-enabled offending involving young people. It is expected to report in Spring next year.