I am delighted to launch this consultation, which seeks your views on improving the parole process in Scotland.
Parole is a critical part of our criminal justice system - and probably one of the least understood. The Parole Board for Scotland members do a difficult and complex job. The decision whether to release an individual from custody and to consider the conditions they must abide by, requires careful judgement. The Parole Board's expertise and experience in assessing risk is essential.
Parole processes in Scotland are robust and fair, with a keen focus on public safety.
As part of this Government's commitment to a progressive justice system, we want to explore what more we can do to make parole processes in Scotland the best they can be.
This consultation highlights areas for improvement and suggests some new ideas for a better system.
I have been clear that I want the needs of victims to be at the centre of the criminal justice system. That is why this consultation focuses on strengthening the voice of victims in the parole process. I believe that victims and their families should have the opportunity to make representations to the Parole Board, in whatever format they are most comfortable. It is vitally important that victims and their families have confidence that their safety and security are taken into account when the Parole Board makes its decisions, including in relation to licence conditions.
I also want to make sure that parole processes are as open and transparent as possible. Not only will this help victims, their families and the wider public to better understand the Parole Board's decisions and the reasons behind them, it should also help to maintain public confidence. This consultation seeks your views on how best we can do that.
It is important that everyone involved in the parole process has access to the information they need to participate fully. This includes Parole Board members, the organisations that support the Parole Board and victims and their families.
It is also important that prisoners have the information they need to participate in their parole hearings. This underpins a fair, just and proportionate system, which recognises the need to provide opportunities for rehabilitation and reintegration once an individual has served their sentence and is deemed not to pose an unacceptable risk. This consultation therefore, also seeks views on the information prisoners should be provided with, to enable them to understand what is required of them.
The Parole Board for Scotland is independent from Scottish Ministers. Ministers cannot interfere with, or influence, the Parole Board's decisions. That is entirely right and I want to make sure that we do all we can to underline and maintain the Parole Board's independence. This consultation therefore seeks views on options for doing that, including a proposal that the Parole Board transfers to the Scottish Tribunals.
This is your opportunity to shape the future of parole in Scotland. It is really important that we hear a wide range of views and I would encourage everyone to have their say.
Thank you for taking the time to respond. I look forward to hearing your views.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice
Email: Sandra Wallace