Scottish Budget 2019-2020: Equality and Fairer Scotland statement

An Equality and Fairer Scotland assessment of proposed spending plans by ministerial portfolios for 2019 to 2020.

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Chapter 11 Justice


The Justice portfolio is responsible for keeping our communities safe and administering justice in its various forms: civil, criminal and administrative. This includes Scotland's prisons, courts, tribunals, police, fire and rescue services, the legal aid system and criminal justice social work services. The most pressing demands for this portfolio include the changing nature of recorded crime which has seen increasing levels of sexual offences and domestic abuse-related prosecutions and convictions. It also includes our cross-government focus on mainstreaming resilience and improving Scotland's ability to anticipate, prevent, prepare, respond and recover from emergencies and disruptive events on an all-risks basis.

Key Inequalities of Outcome

While overall recorded crime is at its second lowest level since 1974, 4.3 per cent of adults in Scotland are estimated to have experienced 61 per cent of all crime. People living in more deprived areas and younger people are more likely to experience crime. For example, the likelihood of experiencing violent crime is higher for people living in the most deprived areas of Scotland (4.8 per cent) compared with people living in the rest of Scotland (2.5 per cent). The economic and social costs of crime in Scotland are estimated at around £4.5 billion, and these costs disproportionately affect communities that are more deprived.

In 2017, just over one in 20 adults reported that they had experienced either discrimination (7 per cent) or harassment (6 per cent) in Scotland at some point over the last three years. Of those that had experienced discrimination, around a third (31 per cent) believed the reason behind this was their ethnic origin. Aside from 'other' reasons, the next most common motivating factors were said to be the respondent's age, gender or disability.

People in prison experience multiple disadvantages, with women in the criminal justice system particularly at risk. While there have been significant positive developments in youth justice with a fall in the number of under 18s being prosecuted in court and a decrease in under 18s in custody, the number of older people in prison has been increasing steadily over the last 10 years. We also know that some people, for example those living with disabilities, are more likely than others to experience civil justice problems.

The Justice portfolio plays a key role in promoting equality by, for example, tackling the causes of crime, which are often rooted in inequality, through an increased emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation. It is also crucial for targeting specific types of crime, such as violence against women and girls, and all forms of hate crime.

Key Strategic Budget Priorities

The Vision for Justice in Scotland published in July 2017 sets out the way in which we will work towards a safe, just and resilient Scotland. It seeks to build on recent success and progress across the Justice portfolio, identifies current and emerging challenges and sets out our priorities to tackle these challenges.

There are a number of strategic priorities that are key to promoting greater equality. These include penal reform where there is a fundamental shift towards prevention and rehabilitation, informed by evidence that community-based interventions are more effective at reducing reoffending than short-term imprisonment. In line with this evidence, we are committed to extending the presumption against short periods of imprisonment to include sentences of 12 months or less once provisions within the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act are fully in force early next year.

There is also a strong focus on tackling violence against women and girls and we are implementing Equally Safe, Scotland's Strategy to tackle and eradicate violence of this nature. We continue to work with justice agencies to find ways to reduce the trauma and improve the experience of victims of gender-based violence within the justice system.

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 introduced a specific offence of domestic abuse covering both physical and psychological abuse. This reflects our modern understanding of this behaviour, providing the police, prosecutors and courts with new powers to bring perpetrators of abuse to justice. The Act will enhance the safety of those at risk of domestic abuse and ensure that courts consider the harmful impact on children when sentencing for this offence.

Work is being progressed to better support victims and witnesses of crime, in particular child witnesses, and a Bill has been introduced to Parliament in 2018 to help further expand the taking of pre-recorded evidence from child and vulnerable adult witnesses. These reforms will help to move our criminal justice system closer to achieving our vision that children, wherever possible, should not have to give evidence in court during a criminal trial.

The Scottish Government, with the Scottish Prison Service and other key agencies, will progress with developing a new custodial estate model for females in custody. This will provide women with intensive support to address the specific needs of female offenders and prevent further reoffending.

Some groups in the population are more likely to experience civil law problems than the general population. For example, an estimated 36 per cent of disabled people experienced a civil law problem compared with 27 per cent of non-disabled people.

The most common problems experienced by adults are issues with home, family or living arrangements, but they also include unfair treatment. We will continue to maintain access to justice for individuals by reforming Scotland's system of legal aid and progress work to modernise and strengthen family justice. This year's Programme for Government confirmed there will be a Family Law Bill in 2018-19. Key aims of this Bill are to ensure that children are fully heard in family cases and that domestic abuse victims are protected.

Equalities Implications of the Scottish Budget 2019-20

To reduce reoffending and inequality, it is essential that we address the underlying causes of offending. These underlying causes can involve multiple inequalities and risk factors, including deprivation, adverse childhood experiences and health problems. Community Justice Scotland, the national body launched in 2017, supports this holistic approach to prevent and reduce further offending and will report on local Community Justice Outcome Improvement Plans early in 2019. Funding for our approach to community justice and reducing reoffending is provided through the Community Justice Services budget, as well as central grants to local authorities for criminal justice social work services.

A central element of our vision for reducing reoffending is that our criminal justice system uses prison less and has an even stronger emphasis on robust community sentences, including greater use of electronic monitoring. Evidence shows that community sentences are more effective at reducing reoffending than short prison sentences. They can also help to prevent some of the detrimental impacts of prison. These detrimental impacts can be particularly acute for marginalised groups, such as women, young people, older prisoners and children of people in prison. We will extend the presumption against short periods of imprisonment to cover sentences of 12 months or less and keep a continued focus on community sentences and services to support the reintegration of people leaving prison, such as mentoring services.

An additional £2.8 million (2018-20) has been invested to expand the innovative Caledonian programme to provide specific rehabilitation services to male perpetrators of domestic abuse, which will target the underlying causes of their actions. Nineteen local authorities will now deliver the Caledonian programme.

We know that many women who offend have multiple disadvantages, including experience of trauma and abuse. The Scottish Government will invest in development work for a new female custodial estate, including a smaller national women's prison and two innovative community-based custody units in Glasgow and Dundee by the end of 2020. These facilities will help women in custody to overcome issues such as alcohol and drug abuse, mental health and trauma, which evidence shows can drive offending behaviour. Through the Health and Justice Collaboration Board we will work with partners to provide more effective health and social care services in our prisons, in order to address the widespread health inequalities of people in the justice system.

The Justice portfolio's continuing investment to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG) will have an ongoing and positive impact on women and young people. In 2019-20, we will implement the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 and will support the training requirements for police officers on the new domestic abuse offence. In addition, we will develop a national awareness raising campaign with funding from 2018-19, in collaboration with victim support and advocacy services, on the new domestic abuse offence to coincide with implementation of the Act.

There will also be investment in measures to improve the experience of victims of rape and other forms of sexual offending of the justice system. In line with our commitment in the Equally Safe Delivery Plan, we will explore how the Barnahus concept for providing a trauma-informed response to child victims of sexual abuse and other traumatic crimes could operate in Scotland. We will build on learning from the European Barnahus Movement, drawing from the original model in Iceland and its development in other countries.

Scotland has seen dramatic changes in the youth justice sector following the shift towards a preventative agenda in 2008 and the roll out of a whole system approach (WSA) to offending by young people across Scotland in 2011. For example, the proportion of 16-24 year olds experiencing violent crime has more than halved since 2008-09, falling from 12.0 per cent to 5.3 per cent while, in contrast, the prevalence rates for all other age groups have shown no significant change over this period. The Scottish Government has provided a two year commitment until April 2020 to support all local authorities in Scotland to re-energise the WSA for children up to the age of 18 and extend this support, where appropriate to 21 and up to 26 for care experienced young people. This commitment is supported through both Justice and Children and Families portfolios.

People of other nationalities make up a large proportion of those who are referred to human trafficking-related services. Support services must therefore take account of a wide variety of cultural and social factors, as well as providing psychological trauma support. We will continue to invest in measures to address human trafficking and exploitation and support its victims. This will include ongoing implementation of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 and taking forward the actions set out in the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy.

Legal aid is a key part of providing access to justice and tackling inequality. It helps people to defend or pursue their rights if they cannot afford to do so and resolve disputes and problems in their lives. We have considered the report of an independent review received in February 2018 and discussed the recommendations with stakeholders. The Scottish Government response to that report was issued in November 2018. Future reforms of the legal aid system will further improve access to justice and will be the subject of consultation.

We are continuing to focus and align our efforts to reduce the inequality gap through our ambition to Build Safer Communities. We are investing in programmes that address the underlying cause of crime and reduce opportunities for reoffending through investment in diversionary recreational activities. This includes £6 million for Cashback for Communities, which is focused on young people.

We know that families living in deprived areas, young children and older people are more likely to experience unintentional harm. We are working with key partners including the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT), the Scottish Community Safety Network, as well as COSLA and local partnership networks to collectively share messages and support initiatives and approaches that focus on reducing unintentional harm. As part of this, we will develop and deliver an unintentional harm online hub that will gather and share examples of local activity that is directly reducing unintentional harm. This online tool will be launched in 2019 and will provide a number of examples to help support the key groups disproportionately affected.

Investment of over £17 million in violence prevention measures and programmes since 2008 includes £12 million invested in the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) and £400,000 for Medics Against Violence. We will continue to invest in preventative approaches; working to prevent violence among at risk groups in some of Scotland's most deprived communities.

Risks to safety, such as fire, vary by socio-demographic factors, including deprivation and disability. We will continue to invest in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to support its plans to modernise and redesign services to achieve a transformational shift to prevention and collaboration where the need of local communities is greatest. Transformation will include an enhanced role for firefighters to ensure that they are trained and equipped to prevent harm to individuals and communities along with having the flexibility to meet new and emerging risks. This includes, for example, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service home fire safety visits that target vulnerable people in the community and assess various aspects of risk within the home beyond fire safety. This preventative and collaborative approach helps to build community capacity to respond to the changing risk profiles of our communities, such as positively recognising the ageing population.

For policing, resource will support Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority to implement Policing 2026, the long-term transformational strategy for policing in Scotland. The strategy, which builds on the Scottish Government's Strategic Police Priorities, is a direct response to the changing demands policing is facing, with efforts increasingly focused towards addressing vulnerability and the consequences of inequality. It will support efforts to ensure that the police workforce is properly reflective of the people it serves and that Scotland continues to benefit from a modern and responsive police service that is fit for the future.

Tackling hate crime remains a key focus. We will continue to work closely with the Connected Communities portfolio to prevent and address all forms of hate crime at both community level and through legislation. This includes undertaking a consultation on the development of consolidated hate crime legislation that will be fit for the 21st century based on the findings of Lord Bracadale's independent review of hate crime legislation.

The hate crime consultation will also look at the merits of establishing a legal definition of sectarianism based on the findings of the Working Group on Defining Sectarianism in Scots Law. This is part of our continuing commitment to tackling sectarianism. We remain committed to tackling sectarianism and to taking forward the recommendations of Professor Duncan Morrow's review in 2017 of the implementation of the independent Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland. This commitment has been backed by investment of £13.5 million since 2012 to support a wide variety of organisations to deliver a range of community-based approaches to tackle sectarianism. We will continue to take a stand against sectarianism wherever it exists and will use the findings from the consultation to inform the development of our work in this area.


The Justice portfolio remains committed to advancing equality. We are taking forward a range of measures to prevent offending and to protect and support various equality groups, including women, children and older people, from the detrimental effects of crime and accidental harm. Taken together, these investments and reforms provide an opportunity to maintain and develop an accessible and effective justice system that can meet our wider ambitions to tackle inequality.


Email: Liz Hawkins

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