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Chamber and committees

Criminal Justice Committee

Meeting date: Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Agenda: Policing and Mental Health, Online Child Abuse, Grooming and Exploitation, Subordinate Legislation, Proposed Bail and Release from Custody Bill


Proposed Bail and Release from Custody Bill

The Deputy Convener

The next item relates to our visit to the Wise Group last week. I refer members to paper 6. I put on record our sincere thanks to the Wise Group for hosting us and telling us about the important work that it does. I found the visit incredibly interesting. I invite members to say what they took from the visit or to give any observations.

Pauline McNeill

I endorse what you have said. The visit was fascinating, and I learned a great deal from it. I wrote to the convener, Audrey Nicoll, with three points that came out of the group discussion, which I think the committee should consider further. I can remember two of them. One was about prescriptions not being available on a prisoner’s release. For people who need drugs immediately, that almost puts them back in jail, because they cannot get the drugs on time.

The second point related to Friday release, which has always been an issue. Why can we not do something to ensure that people have the services that they need? We could explore whether there is another way round that issue.

I might need someone to remind me what the third issue was. Oh, I remember what it was. It related to eligibility for work.

It seems that there are commonsense things that we could do to address those issues. We should write to the minister about them to see whether there is a way forward.

Indeed. With respect to the first point, a letter to the Scottish Prison Service about prescriptions is in hand. Stephen Imrie can address the second point.

Stephen Imrie (Clerk)

On Ms McNeill’s second point, the issue of Friday and bank holiday liberations is covered in paper 6. I believe that such provision might be in the forthcoming bail and release bill, which the committee expects to see shortly. There is a suggestion at paragraph 17 of paper 6 about how the committee might follow up on that issue with the SPS and the Scottish Government.

In relation to access to work and the employability programme, following Pauline McNeill’s suggestion, that issue is referred to at paragraphs 18 and 19 of paper 6. There is a suggestion for the committee’s approval that it might want to follow up on that issue with the Scottish Government.

If the committee agrees to all those recommendations, we will follow up on all those points.

Rona Mackay

I agree with everything that the deputy convener and Pauline McNeill have said. Could we also raise the issue of interaction between the Scottish Prison Service and the Wise Group and other throughcare services? When we asked whether there is much co-operation, there was quite a negative answer. Sometimes, offenders had to search for information from the Prison Service. It might be good to highlight that issue to try to get more co-ordination, because such groups provide a fantastic service.

That could perhaps be included in the letter to the SPS about the prescription issue that Pauline McNeill identified.

Fulton MacGregor

I agree with you and others that the visit was very useful. I put on record my thanks to the people who gave us evidence, sometimes sharing their personal stories, which was very helpful.

We heard that a national throughcare service is in place—Wise Group is already providing it—and we were asked to take that into account as we proceed with the bill. That was an interesting point that I wanted to highlight.

Collette Stevenson

I totally concur with everything that everyone has said: it was an excellent visit. It was amazing to hear about the recidivism rates that the Wise Group has, which are fantastic and a measure of how good the organisation is. I was blown away by the amazing plethora of talent and experience that the mentors have. Some of the services that the Wise Group provides through the Prison Service, such as the email a prisoner scheme, are fantastic.

I was totally taken by the Wise Group, and I have emailed Charlie Martin and Sean Duffy to see whether, during recess, I can visit for a full day to see the work that they do. I will keep in touch with them.

The Deputy Convener

I think that there was an open invitation to members to shadow and see some of the work that the group does, which I will certainly take up, too. I did not appreciate that the email a prisoner scheme is a Wise Group initiative.

On reoffending rates, one question that I did not ask when we were there was about how the percentage figure is measured and exactly what it relates to—whether it is reoffending full stop, or reoffending within a certain period. That is just another consideration.

Jamie Greene

I apologise to committee colleagues and the Wise Group for being unable to make the visit. I make an open offer that I would be very willing to go with other members or to visit on my own at a suitable time. I am happy to arrange that through the committee clerks or directly with the Wise Group.

Audrey Nicoll

I endorse colleagues’ points about the value of the visit. I have to be honest and say that I did not know much about the Wise Group’s work before the visit, and I learned an awful lot, particularly about its throughcare provision.

I am interested in learning a little more about the wider reach of the Wise Group across Scotland. For instance, I am interested in what work it is doing or planning up here in the north-east. Obviously, we have HMP Grampian near my constituency. I would find it helpful to have a bit of background on that wider work.

The Deputy Convener

We can certainly ask Wise Group for more information on that.

Do members agree with the recommendation in paragraph 22 in paper 6, which is on page 4?

Members indicated agreement.

That concludes the public part of the meeting and we now move into private session.

12:44 Meeting continued in private until 13:07.