Chapter 3 – Next steps
3.1 Programme for Government 2018‑19
The Scottish Government's Programme for Government 2018‑19 announced our intention to bring forward the Disclosure (Scotland) Bill, which was introduced to Parliament on 12 June 2019. The Bill will make amendments to the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 and Part 5 of the Police Act as it applies in Scotland to support the modernisation of the policy design of the disclosure system. It will continue to balance safeguarding and proportionality, and provide a disclosure regime in Scotland that is more responsive to the needs of stakeholders.
As set out in the Government response, the Bill contains proposals to simplify our current disclosure regime, while maintaining the right balance between strengthened safeguarding and helping people with convictions move on from their past. We will provide a digital way to access disclosures that is more responsive to Scotland's people.
The Programme for Government 2018-19 was published to the Scottish Government website at: https://www.gov.scot/programme-for-government/. The Disclosure (Scotland) Bill can be found on the Scottish Parliament website.
3.2 Links with other legislation
Scottish Government policy officials from Justice, Youth Justice and Disclosure Scotland have worked closely together in all aspects of amending the disclosure regime in pursuit of a broader vision. The current proposals in the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill will significantly shorten disclosure periods for almost all sentences. Thepolicy intention set out in that Bill is to reduce the period of disclosure for custodial sentences up to and including 48 months. This will have a positive impact on disclosure users whether they be adults or children as convictions will be spent sooner, meaning that minor convictions are less likely to be disclosed on the basic disclosure. The reforms will also mean that applicants for higher level disclosures will be able to make the application to a sheriff sooner in those cases where the individual has a conviction for an offence included on List B.
The Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill as passed in Parliament on 7 May 2019 proposes to increase that age from eight to 12, meaning that there can be no convictions (in practical terms this refers to offence grounds being found proved by a Children's Hearing) recorded before that. This builds on the change made in the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 which ended the possibility of children under 12 being prosecuted for offending behaviour. Disclosure of any behaviour from before the age of criminal responsibility would only be possible after the independent review of the police decision to include it, and where the disclosure subject has the opportunity to respond to the police information before it is disclosed to another party, such as an employer.
The policy ideas proposed in the consultation are fully in keeping with the wider Government strategy to improve the disclosure system and the justice system generally for both children and adults. They must be seen in this context. The review contains proposals that, if enacted, would represent a transformational improvementin the position of young people and adults.
Taken together, these changes show how this Government has embarked on a steady progression of reforms that have sought to engage the public, and key professional concerns, at all stages. We are committed to policies that balance public protection with the right to forget past offences so that everyone in Scotland has the possibility of contributing to the wellbeing and development of our nation.
3.3 Stakeholder engagement
Our consultation paper, the responses to it and this response are only the start of the process of involving those with an interest in our proposals and their continued development. We will make sure that there are opportunities to engage further with users and practitioners as the Bill passes through Parliament. The Scottish Parliament's consideration of the Disclosure Bill will be accompanied by thorough scrutiny including drawing on the expertise of those already involved in the system.
Disclosure Scotland will continue to engage with stakeholders on fees, transitional arrangements, delivery of the changes and digital delivery to ensure it is delivered effectively and efficiently.
As touched on above and detailed in the consultation, Disclosure Scotland has made a commitment to providing more guidance and training. We are continually engaging with stakeholders to develop guidance and training that meets user needs and welcome respondents' views on how this can be achieved.
This commitment to providing improved resources to support stakeholders is one that will continue as we transition to a refreshed disclosure system and beyond.