Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill - Call for Views

The Justice Committee would like to hear your views on the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill

The Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament on 22 February 2018 by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice. It is a Scottish Government Bill. The Bill and accompanying documents can be found here.

Key issues

The Bill legislates in three distinct areas—

  • electronic monitoring of offenders;
  • disclosure of convictions;
  • the Parole Board for Scotland.

Electronic monitoring:

Legal rules on the electronic monitoring of offenders have grown up organically over the last two decades and are now found in a variety of legislative sources. The aim of Part 1 is to draw these together, providing for a unified set of rules on electronic monitoring in two situations: (a) at a disposal, ie when an individual has been convicted and the court is deciding what sentence to impose, and (b) when an offender serving a custodial sentence is released on license. 

The Bill also makes some changes to the current law. For instance, a power is created that would enable the Scottish Government in future to introduce electronic devices which have GPS tracking systems or which can monitor whether the offender has ingested drugs or alcohol, as and when there is technology to support this. The Bill also adds to the list of situations in which monitoring may be imposed. For instance, it will become possible for a prisoner on temporary release to be monitored.

Overall, the Scottish Government considers that Part 1 of the Bill will enable electronic monitoring to play a greater role within the criminal justice system. At the same time, it does not expect there to be a huge increase in the amount of electronic monitoring if the Bill is passed.

The Committee would welcome responses to the following questions—

1. Overall, do you support Part 1 of the Bill concerning the electronic monitoring of offenders?

2. The Scottish Government wishes electronic monitoring to play a greater role within the criminal justice system. Will the reforms in Part 1 of the Bill help enable this? If not, what further changes (legislative or non-legislative) are required?

3. Do you have any views on any specific aspects of Part 1? – for instance, revisions to the list of circumstances in which electronic monitoring may be imposed or the creation of a power to enable future monitoring devices to contain GPS technology or technology that can measure alcohol or drug ingestion.

Disclosure of convictions:

Part 2 of the Bill substantially amends the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. The aim is to strike a more appropriate balance between the rights of people not to disclose previous offending behaviour and to move on with their lives and the rights of the public to be protected. Part 2 only reforms so called basic disclosure: it makes no direct changes in relation to the higher level disclosure system concerning more sensitive employment or proceedings.

Whilst Part 2 makes detailed provision in relation to a wide variety of disposals, the overall policy is to reduce the need for disclosure, in two main ways:

  • the length of time before a conviction (or other disposal) is deemed to be “spent” is, in general, reduced. (When a conviction is spent, an individual is, in general, no longer legally required to disclose it);
  • under the current law, a custodial sentence of 30 months or longer never becomes spent and therefore must always be disclosed. The Bill changes this; a sentence of up to 48 months imprisonment may, in time, become spent.

Part 2 also takes the opportunity to change some terminology (in particular, “rehabilitation” is replaced by “disclosure”), to improve the drafting of the 1974 Act so that it is easier to understand, and to change some specific aspects of the Act that are considered to be in need of some improvement.

The Committee would welcome responses to the following questions—

4. Overall, do you support Part 2 of the Bill? The Scottish Government’s view is that it will provide a more appropriate balance between the public’s right to protection and a former offender’s right to “move on” with their life, by, overall, reducing the legal need for disclosure. Do you agree?

5. Do you agree with the Scottish Government that other reforms in Part 2 will make the law on disclosure of convictions more intelligible, clear and coherent?

6. Do you have any further views on law and policy around disclosure of convictions?

Parole Board for Scotland:

Part 3 of the Bill amends aspects of the legislation concerning the Parole Board, a tribunal whose main role is to take decisions on whether to allow prisoners to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community. It makes amendments in these three main areas—

  • membership and appointment: the requirements for a High Court Judge and registered medical practitioner who is a psychiatrist to sit on the Board are removed; terms of office are standardised at five years; and provision is made enabling resigned Board members to be re-appointed;
  • functions and requirements in relation to prisoners: a small number of amendments that the Scottish Government has described as minor are made;
  • independence and administrative arrangements of the Board: the Board’s status as an independent tribunal is restated statutorily, and new powers are created that would enable the Board Chairperson to make administrative arrangements. The intention is that this will make the Board’s governance and accountability more transparent.

The Committee would welcome responses to the following questions—

7. Do you support Part 3 of the Bill, which makes provision for the Parole Board for Scotland, in terms of its membership and appointment system; its functions and requirements in relation to prisoners, its independence, and its administration?

8. Do you have any further views on the role, purpose and functions of the Parole Board?

 

How to submit written evidence

Before making a submission, please read the Scottish Parliament’s policy on treatment of written evidence. In line with that policy, submissions will normally be published on our website. We recognise that in some circumstances people may prefer for their evidence to be published anonymously or for information provided to be treated as confidential. If you wish to do this, please make this clear when providing your submission.

Written submissions should be reasonably brief and typewritten in Word format (preferably no more than 4-6 sides of A4 in total). There is no need to answer all of the questions listed.

The deadline for receipt of written submissions is Friday 20 April 2018.

Owing to the timescales normally required for the processing and analysis of evidence, late submissions will only be accepted with the advance agreement of the clerk.

The Committee prefers to receive submissions electronically. These should be sent to:
justicecommittee@parliament.scot

You may also send a hard copy of written submissions to:
Justice Committee
Scottish Parliament
Holyrood
Edinburgh
EH99 1SP.

We welcome written evidence in any language.

Further information
For further information about the Committee’s work on the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill please contact the clerks by email at justicecommittee@parliament.scot or by phone on 0131 348 5195.

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