Justice and Safety

The week in review

February 2, 2018 by No Comments | Category Round-up

This week’s round-up includes Justice Secretary Michael Matheson visiting Women’s Aid HQ to announce funding ahead of the passage of the Domestic Abuse Bill, and Community Safety Minister Annabelle Ewing speaking at the launch of the Scotland Drowning Prevention Strategy.

Justice for domestic abuse survivors

This week the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill was passed by Parliament, meaning psychological abuse and coercive control will become an offence under the legislation.

It will be possible to prosecute abuse in its totality as a single offence, allowing courts to consider the whole course of abuse and to sentence perpetrators accordingly.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, who introduced the Bill to Parliament last year, hailed the Bill’s passing as a “momentous day” for survivors.

He said: “Attitudes towards domestic abuse have changed considerably since this Parliament was established in 1999. Back then, some were of the mindset that domestic abuse – especially where it did not involve physical violence – was a private matter. Attitudes have rightly changed – albeit further work is needed to challenge lingering outdated or dismissive attitudes.

“I am very grateful to the domestic abuse survivors who presented their evidence to the Justice Committee. Their courage helped shaped the legislation I brought to Parliament, and their actions will help the justice system prosecute those who commit one of society’s most insidious crimes.”

Watch Michael Matheson’s closing remarks here, where he pays tribute to survivors who helped shape the legislation:

As quoted in the Guardian, Professor Evan Stark, who initially developed the concept of coercive control and influenced comparable Westminster legislation, described Scotland’s Domestic Abuse Bill as the “new gold standard”.

When the new offence comes into force, it will be preceded by a public information campaign by the Scottish Government.

As the Domestic Abuse Bill progressed through Parliament, Mr Matheson announced dedicated funding for Police Scotland to enable them to train up to 14,000 officers and staff to identify the new offence.

This week, Mr Matheson announced £165,000 for Scottish Women’s Aid to develop training to help communities better understand the new legislation.

Read more about the Bill on the Parliament website.

Celebrating police excellence

On Tuesday, Community Safety Minister Annabelle Ewing welcomed the third annual Scottish Policing Excellence Awards award winners.

The event, which began and closed with music from the @ScottishChoir was held in recognition of the excellence and innovation in local policing, and specialists divisions across the country.

Awards were presented by DCC Rose Fitzpatrick, Scottish Police Authority Chair Professor Susan Deacon, Police Mutual Chief Executive Stephen Mann and Relationship Manager Corinne Porter.

Ms Ewing said: “The individuals and teams within our police service go the extra mile every day and it is their devotion to public service, coupled with a willingness to innovate, that brings true excellence to policing in Scotland.

“I am always inspired by the work of police officers and staff members and I would like to thank all of this year’s winners and nominees for their contribution to our communities.”

For more information click here for Police Scotland’s website.

Drowning Prevention

On Wednesday Annabelle Ewing addressed guests at the launch of Water Safety Scotland’s Drowning Prevention Strategy. The strategy aims to halve the number of accidental drowning deaths in Scotland by 2026, and contribute to a reduction in water related suicides.

Members of Water Safety Scotland include the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS), the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), Police Scotland, and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

Cross-border security in Europe

The Lord Advocate welcomed the European Commissioner for the Security Union Julian King to Scotland on Friday.

This followed an earlier meeting between the Commissioner, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Justice Secretary Michael Matheson on Thursday at Parliament.

As part of Friday’s visit to the Scottish Crime Campus at Gartosh, the Commissioner saw some of the innovative ways Scotland’s law enforcement agencies work together to investigate and prosecute crime.

The Lord Advocate also emphasised the value to Scotland of current Europe-wide arrangements to meet the challenges posed by transnational crime.

He said: “This was also a chance to demonstrate how Scotland benefits from the EU regime of criminal justice cooperation and to explain that we value our ability to contribute to it.

“Collaboration across jurisdictional boundaries is an expression of our solidarity in protecting our societies and our people from harm, and of our common commitment to the effective and fair administration of justice.”

BBC Scotland reported on the issue.

Seizing ill-gotten gains

New powers to combat organised crime through the Criminal Finances Act 2017 come into force on Wednesday.

Police will now have powers to freeze money stored in bank accounts that appears to be the result of unlawful conduct or intended for use in unlawful conduct; Scottish Ministers then have the power to apply to a sheriff for forfeiture of the money held in the frozen account.

For the first time courts will also have the power to order money in bank accounts and money held as cash to be paid as part of a confiscation order against a convicted criminal, meaning a quicker, more efficient process for the recovery of the proceeds of crime.

The new powers also include the power to apply for an Unexplained Wealth Order, requiring a person who is suspected of involvement in serious criminality to explain the origin of assets that appear to be disproportionate to their known income. A failure to provide a full response would give rise to a presumption that the property was recoverable, in order to assist any subsequent recovery action.

And finally…

The Minister for Community Safety was joined by her two immediate predecessors, Paul Wheelhouse and Roseanna Cunningham as she attended a reception at the Scottish Parliament to recognise the huge contribution of Pat Watters to Scotland’s public services. Mr Watters recently stood down as Chair of the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service. All of us in the Safer Communities and the Justice directorates wish Pat a very happy retirement.

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