Courts get lifelong restriction options


High Court Judges in Scotland from today are able to place the most serious violent and sexual offenders on an Order for Lifelong Restriction (OLR).

OLR offenders will serve significant sentences - with minimum punishment parts - as before, but will also be subject to a lifelong Risk Management Plan that will be revised and updated as needed to reflect the individual offenders risk.

The Risk Management Plan is a personal plan for every offender who is sentenced to an OLR. It will be modified and adapted to reflect the offenders risk and needs throughout his lifetime, whether he is in custody or on licence in the community. The agencies responsible for the offender during the various stages of the sentence will contribute to the plan and be responsible for implementing it.

It will be drawn up firstly by the Scottish Prison Service when the offender is in custody, and reviewed and changed as required during the time he is in prison. If the offender is released on life licence responsibility for the plan will transfer to the local authority who will be responsible for supervising the offender in the community. The Risk Management Authority will approve each plan and any variations.

The commencement of the Order for Lifelong Restriction completes the high-risk offender strategy recommended by the MacLean Committee that looked at the treatment of serious violent and sexual offenders. It was legislated for in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003.

Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson welcomed the commencement as a further important step in increasing public protection from the handful of most serious offenders who pose the greatest risk.

Ms Jamieson said:

Serious criminals - especially the small but worrying number of individuals who are convicted of serious violent or sexual crimes - deserve serious jail time for their crimes. This valuable new disposal will target this handful of very high risk offenders. It will ensure that not only are they punished with a life sentence but that their risk is closely assessed and managed for their entire lifetime.

Reducing reoffending is central to the end-to-end reform of our justice system now underway. The Risk Management Plans, which will be tailored and adjusted to reflect each offenders risk, will ensure the right level of control if the offender is ultimately released on licence in the community. In each case we expect these plans to be thoroughly researched and regularly monitored by experts in risk assessment.

The Risk Management Authority, based in Paisley, is already making its mark as a centre of expertise in risk assessment and risk management in Scotland and it has a pivotal role in the OLR process. Thats why it was so important to ensure that we had the right structures and the right expertise in place before allowing the OLRs to commence in our High Courts.

I believe that the OLR fits well with our overall strategy to enhance public protection and reduce reoffending. Later this week, I will also be setting out my proposals to end automatic and unconditional early release from prison, and replacing that with a new sentence management structure that also reflects an offender's risk. Significant steps forward in reducing reoffending and reforming our criminal justice system - and significant contributions to a safer Scotland.

The OLR will apply to all offences for which a life sentence is available in respect of proceedings commenced on or after 20 June. For offences where the current maximum penalty is not life imprisonment, the OLR will be available in respect of relevant offences committed on or after 20 June.

Offenders who are sentenced to an OLR will be treated like other life sentence offenders. That means they will have a punishment part imposed at time of sentence and will have to spend that minimum period in prison before their suitability for release on life licence will be considered by the Parole Board. Release on licence will be based on acceptable risk.

The Risk Management Authority (RMA) has a key role in the OLR process. It accredits the risk assessors that the court will appoint to undertake the assessments during the court process to establish whether the offender meets the criteria for an OLR. It will also approve the Risk Management Plans.

The RMA is an executive non-departmental public body set up by Section 3 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003. Its role is to help protect the public by promoting and supporting excellent professional practice in managing the risk of serious harm presented by violent and sexual offenders. The RMAs work commenced with the appointment of the Convener and the Board, who took up post in September 2004. The Chief Executive took up post at the end of January 2005 and the recruitment of staff (eleven in total) to take forward the initial work priorities was completed by September 2005. The RMAs office is based in St James House, Paisley.