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On 10th May 2006 I wrote to the First Minister Jack McConnell asking him three questions:  Did he know of this imbalance; did it concern him, and could he give an explanation for it? 

After some seven months during which I sent the First Minister several reminders I eventually received a response on behalf of The First Minister which stated in answer to my three questions: The problem is not due to systematic bias in the criminal justice system; the likely cause of the imbalance is that Catholics are more likely to live in deprived areas. 

The Executive response stated that this reply had been sent to me in June by post but not by e-mail which is the normal practice. This is unusual and doubly so when the Executive had sent me a holding letter on 7th September stating: “I am writing to acknowledge your recent letter to Scottish Ministers regarding Statistics showing a disproportionate number of Catholics in prison in Scotland. A reply will be sent to you as soon as possible”. Not surprisingly—as the matter was still under consideration by the Scottish Ministers in September—I never received any letter from them in June. However In the interests of progress I set aside the correspondence difficulties of the past and raised several preliminary points arising from the answers by the First Minister. Before I addressed the substance of his regarding deprived areas dominated by Catholics response I sought to clarify why a denial of bias in the criminal justice system featured in his response since this question had not been raised or even hinted at by me.

Since raising this point the Executive has again taken refuge in the by now familiar tactic of failure to respond to correspondence. At present I have been waiting for four weeks for a response to my last request for clarification, and I have not received an acknowledgement of a reminder I sent regarding this request. I am not prepared to go through another 7 months of waiting for the Executive’s purdah to lapse and I now intend to highlight my concerns in public including via the Scottish Parliament’s public petitions system in the hope of a speedy solution to a question that seems too hot to handle. 

On 10th May 2006 I wrote to the First Minister Jack McConnell asking him three questions: Did he know of this imbalance; did it concern him, and could he give an explanation for it?

After some seven months during which I sent the First Minister several reminders I eventually received a response on behalf of The First Minister which stated in answer to my three questions: The problem is not due to systematic bias in the criminal justice system; the likely cause of the imbalance is that Catholics are more likely to live in deprived areas.

The Executive response stated that this reply had been sent to me in June by post but not by e-mail which is the normal practice. This is unusual and doubly so when the Executive had sent me a holding letter on 7th September stating: “I am writing to acknowledge your recent letter to Scottish Ministers regarding Statistics showing a disproportionate number of Catholics in prison in Scotland. A reply will be sent to you as soon as possible”. Not surprisingly—as the matter was still under consideration by the Scottish Ministers in September—I never received any letter from them in June. However In the interests of progress I set aside the correspondence difficulties of the past and raised several preliminary points arising from the answers by the First Minister. Before I addressed the substance of his regarding deprived areas dominated by Catholics response I sought to clarify why a denial of bias in the criminal justice system featured in his response since this question had not been raised or even hinted at by me.

Since raising this point the Executive has again taken refuge in the by now familiar tactic of failure to respond to correspondence. At present I have been waiting for four weeks for a response to my last request for clarification, and I have not received an acknowledgement of a reminder I sent regarding this request. I am not prepared to go through another 7 months of waiting for the Executive’s purdah to lapse and I now intend to highlight my concerns in public including via the Scottish Parliament’s public petitions system in the hope of a speedy solution to a question that seems too hot to handle.