Justice portfolio briefing notes for FMQs session on 17 September 2020: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

You asked for:

‘The First Minister’s Briefing for the FMQs session which took place on 17 September 2020. More specifically with regards to victims of crime, crime statistics or any other part of the briefing  relevant to the justice portfolio’.


In response to your request, I enclose some of the information you have requested in Annex A and Annex B. Elements of the FMQ brief in Annex A below have been redacted under exemption 30(b)(i) – free and frank provision of advice. This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption for specific elements of the advice. However, we recognise that there is some public interest in release and the following material has therefore been provided.

Annex A
Briefing 1 – 17th September 2020 - First Minister Questions

  • All victims of crime who are eligible for the Victim Notification Scheme are able to make an informed decision as to whether they wish to sign up.
  • Not all victims may want to be informed of a prisoner’s release as they could find this retraumatising.
  • It is right that victims should voluntarily decide to opt-in to the scheme before they receive any information.
  • Through the Victims Taskforce and our regular meetings with victim organisations we are striving to provide services to victims that are trauma-informed - including the Victim Notification Scheme. We will continue to work with VSS and others to consider where improvements can be made.
  • We are also investing £18.7 million in victims services this year and have provided £100,000 to Victim Support Scotland to help meet immediate financial needs of the most vulnerable victims during the pandemic.
  • In response to the pandemic, we increased Victim Support Scotland’s Victims’ Fund to £100,000 to help meet immediate financial needs of the most vulnerable victims.
  • Victims are accessing support worth up to £3,000 for items such as food vouchers, help with utility bills and assistance for domestic abuse victims who may have to urgently leave their homes.
  • We are investing £18.7 million this year to support victims of crime, including funding organisations such as Victim Support Scotland.
  • The Victims Taskforce is leading the development of work aimed at providing more compassionate and trauma-informed support for victims at every stage of the justice process.
  • Victim Support Scotland’s Support for Families Bereaved by Crime service launched in April 2018, providing dedicated support to families affected by murder or culpable homicide.
  • We have consulted on expanding the range of serious crimes where victims can make a statement to the court.
  • Anyone committing a crime that results in a court fine is now charged an additional penalty – the victim surcharge.
  • The victim surcharge was introduced in November 2019.
  • The victim surcharge was introduced in November 2019. Anyone committing a crime that results in a court fine is now charged an additional penalty – the victim surcharge.
  • The money is being banked in the Victim Surcharge Fund and will be used to provide direct support to victims and their families.
  • We aim to open the Victim Surcharge Fund for bids from victims organisations by the end of 2020. The impact of Covid-19 on court business may delay this.
  • We published an action plan setting out how government and its partners can make restorative justice more widely available across Scotland by 2023.
  • The plan was published in June 2019.
  • This Action Plan is backed by £300,000 of new investment, to reduce victims’ fear of further victimisation and have a positive impact on reducing reoffending.

Annex B
Briefing 2 – 17th September 2020 - First Minister Questions

  • The 2018-19 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey estimates overall crime is down by 45% since 2008-09, including a 20% fall since 2016-17. Police recorded crime has fallen by 41% between 2006-07 and 2018-19 and is at one of the lowest levels seen since 1974.
  • Despite constraints on Scotland’s public services through a decade of UK austerity, the Scottish Government has increased the policing budget for 20/21 by £60 million. This means that the annual budget for policing is now over £1.2bn.
  • Scotland has a higher number of police officers than at any time between 1999 and 2007, with the total number of officers at 17,273 on 30 June 2020. This is 1,039 higher than the number at 31 March 2007. The latest figures for England and Wales as at 31 March 2020 show a decrease of 16,228 (-11.4%) from the position at 31 March 2007.
  • We have invested more than £20 million in violence prevention since 2007.
  • The 2018-19 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey shows that violent crime is down by 48 per cent, and property crime by 44 per cent since 2008-09
  • Automatic early release has been ended, meaning that long-term prisoners who pose an unacceptable risk to public safety will serve their sentence in full. The reconviction rate remains at its lowest in 20 years.
  • Since 2008, £110 million from the proceeds of crime has been committed to community projects for young people across Scotland through the Cashback for Communities Programme.
  • We’ve introduced the world leading Domestic Abuse Act that makes psychological domestic abuse and controlling behaviour a crime.
  • Since 2012, we have invested record funding of £14.5 million to support anti-sectarian education in schools, prisons, workplaces and communities.
  • The new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has been created.
  • We have made the sharing of so-called ‘revenge porn’ a specific criminal offence, carrying a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

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