1. Ministerial Foreword
Scotland is a modern and progressive society. Our overarching aim for the Justice System in Scotland is to improve public safety, support victims and reduce rates of victimisation. Evidence shows that this is best achieved by reducing crime, reducing reoffending, and having fewer people experiencing crime. As part of that aim, this consultation asks important questions about how custody should be used in Scotland, now and in the future.
How we treat people who come into contact with the criminal justice system says a lot about who we are as a society. It is, of course, important that measures such as loss of liberty are there to protect the public. Keeping our communities safe and protecting victims must remain a priority for us all. However, we must also recognise the severe and multiple deprivation experienced by many people who come into contact with the criminal justice system – and the damaging impact that imprisonment can have on individuals, their families and wider communities. I am clear that the criminal justice system must balance protecting the public with providing real opportunities to support and rehabilitate those who offend. This consultation seeks views on how this could be done differently in future.
This is smart, compassionate justice that emphasises the need to protect victims, ensure public safety and give those who have offended the support they need to make different choices so they can make a positive contribution to our communities.
We are seeking views on two particular parts of the justice system: bail/remand and release from custody to inform the development of legislation in this area.
The reforms we are proposing are intended to change the way bail law operates so that those who do not pose a risk of serious harm are managed safely in the community and are not remanded in custody. This is in response to the concerns which have been raised in relation to the increased remand population and the calls for action in this area. I share those concerns and I am determined that steps are taken to address this.
We are also consulting on changes to the way release from prison custody processes operate with an emphasis on enabling better reintegration. This includes a focus on the support provided to people leaving prison so that they don't reoffend. This recognises that, too often, we see people cycle back into the criminal justice system and into prison because they cannot access the support they need in the community. Collectively, we can do better.
These are complex issues, with no easy answers. But, if we want to see real change in the way we treat people in contact with the criminal justice system and better outcomes for individuals, their families, victims of crime and communities, then we need to be bold.
Thank you for reading this consultation, I would like to see as wide a range of responses as possible and your views will be critical in informing our next steps.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans