I would like to begin by expressing my sincere condolences to Craig McClelland’s family.
I met with them again this morning to discuss these reports and how the Government will respond - and it’s clear from our conversations that Craig was a much-loved son, brother, partner and, most of all, dad to his three boys. Craig was a remarkable young man. Through speaking to his family I have heard much more about him.
I am deeply sorry for their loss and the pain they are experiencing.
I would like to commend them for their bravery and tenacity in highlighting their concerns about the circumstances of Craig’s death.
I am determined that lessons will be learned. And that improvements will be made to Home Detention Curfew to ensure that public safety remains paramount.
In June, my predecessor instructed HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland to undertake independent reviews of HDC.
Those reports have been laid in Parliament today.
I met with the two Chief Inspectors yesterday and I would like to thank them and their teams for undertaking these reviews.
I also met with the Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service and the Chief Constable this week to seek assurances that the Inspectorates’ findings will be addressed as a priority.
Presiding Officer, I will discuss the Inspectorates’ findings and the action being taken in response in a moment. Before I do, I would like to provide some context.
Home Detention Curfew is an established mechanism for preparing prisoners for release. It is not available to all prisoners and is not an entitlement.
Prisoners are only eligible following risk assessment and provided that they are not subject to statutory exclusions.
At any time, there are around 300 people on HDC. This is approximately 4% of the prison population and is comparable to its use in England and Wales.
Since it was introduced in 2006, over 20,000 people have been released under HDC.
The vast majority– 80% - successfully complete their period of HDC. Of those who are recalled, the vast majority are returned promptly to custody.
However, I am clear that HDC needs to be strengthened in light of the Inspectorates’ findings.
The Inspectorates’ reviews examined the process for assessing whether someone should be placed on HDC. And for investigating breaches and apprehending individuals following recall.
The reviews also examined whether processes were followed in the case of James Wright who was convicted of Craig’s murder.
In this specific case, the Inspectorates found that the application process and the decision to release were in line with existing policies and guidance.
However, they were clear that the assessment process should be improved.
The Inspectorates found that, once the recall order for James Wright was issued, police delivered the necessary briefings and updated their systems appropriately.
However, they noted that there was a lack of a documented approach and effective oversight in the efforts to apprehend James Wright.
It is clear, therefore, that improvements are absolutely needed. And I intend to take immediate action.
Presiding Officer, I would like to make clear at the outset that SPS, Police Scotland and indeed the Scottish Government will accept all of the Inspectorates’ recommendations.
The Chief Executive of the Prison Service and the Chief Constable have given me assurances that, in addition to actions already taken, work to implement the recommendations is being taken forward as a priority.
It’s not possible to discuss all of the recommendations in detail today. I will, however, highlight the main findings common to both reports. And set out the immediate actions being taken to address them.
In terms of risk assessments, both reviews were clear that the risk assessment process should be strengthened to make decision-making procedures more robust.
Specifically, the Inspectorates recommend that there should be:
- greater consideration of the potential risk an individual may pose in the community
- improved access to police intelligence to inform decisions
- improved support and guidance for staff undertaking assessments
- and crucially, a presumption of refusal of HDC where the individual’s offence involves certain prior behaviours
In response, the following additional safeguards are being implemented:
- there will be a presumption that individuals whose offence involves violence or knife crime will not, in normal circumstances, receive HDC and we will consider the option of placing this on a statutory basis
- we will also look at exclusions for individuals who have known links to serious and organised crime
- police intelligence is now being shared to inform decisions about HDC release
- SPS are adding an additional level of assurance to the HDC assessment process. Governors in Charge will now receive recommendations and will decide on HDC release, applying consistent criteria
Alongside this, SPS and partners will review the assessment criteria for HDC and will make any necessary wider improvements.
In relation to governance and procedure, the Inspectorates also identified that improvements were needed to ensure greater consistency in HDC processes and to strengthen governance.
In response, SPS and Police Scotland are improving the consistency of documentation relating to HDC as a priority.
Police Scotland has also taken action to strengthen the governance of activity to apprehend individuals who are unlawfully at large.
These individuals are now discussed at each Local Area Commander’s daily tactical briefings, ensuring clear tasking and supervision arrangements are in place.
Presiding Officer, both inspectorates highlighted shortcomings in the information sharing processes between SPS and Police Scotland in relation to HDC, particularly the status of those who were unlawfully at large.
Police Scotland and SPS have already undertaken urgent work to rectify this. In June, they established a Working Group to review and improve their information sharing and communication processes in relation to HDC.
As a result, they now have clear communication processes in place so that information on individuals released on HDC - and those subject to recall notices - is shared and acted on in real time. This means that efforts can be focused on identifying and apprehending individuals who are unlawfully at large.
Consequently, the number of individuals who are unlawfully at large from HDC has decreased from 54 on 18 June to 8 as of this morning.
The Inspectorates found that cross-border arrangements where individuals are released to addresses in England and Wales should be clearer. Particularly in relation to notification of release and revocation of HDC licences.
SPS and Police Scotland have already taken action on this. They have established single points of contact in all 43 police forces in England and Wales. And have developed clear processes to alert those forces and HMPPS to release on HDC to a curfew address in their area and any revocation of those licences.
As a further safeguard, Police Scotland are also informed and confirm that the relevant information is logged on the Police National Computer.
Presiding Officer, as part of their review, HMICS examined the powers available to Police Scotland to apprehend individuals who remain unlawfully at large.
Consequently, they have recommended that Government considers making remaining unlawfully at large a specific offence. This would also provide associated powers of entry for the police.
I accept this recommendation and will consult with criminal justice partners, and of course those across the chamber, on the best way forward.
If they agree with this proposal, this will be taken forward by way of a Stage 2 amendment to the current Management of Offenders Bill, scheduled for Spring 2019.
Presiding Officer, I believe that these additional safeguards will strengthen HDC processes in the immediate term by delivering:
- more robust and consistent assessment
- improved governance and oversight of release decisions and in relation to apprehension
- streamlined communication between SPS and Police Scotland; and
- clearer cross-border arrangements
These immediate actions form part of a wider programme of work to implement all the Inspectorates’ recommendations. I have made clear to the Chief Executive of SPS and the Chief Constable, that I expect to see real and demonstrable progress. I have made it clear to them that the Scottish Government will, of course, do likewise.
Police Scotland and the Prison Service have established a senior Strategic Oversight Group to drive this work. The group includes representation from other criminal justice partners and indeed the Scottish Government. And will report on their progress directly to the Chief Constable and the Chief Executive of the SPS.
I have asked the Chair of the SPA to maintain oversight of Police Scotland’s activity to implement the recommendations for the police. I have also asked HMIPS and HMICS to review progress against their recommendations in 6 months.
In conclusion, Presiding Officer, I believe that the immediate actions I have set out today - along with the work SPS and Police Scotland are undertaking - will make HDC processes more robust. And will help to strike a balance between support for reintegration and the requirement to protect public safety.
I would like to close by reiterating my thanks to Craig McClelland’s family for their determination in raising their concerns about the operation of HDC. It is through their tenacity, their tireless campaigning on behalf of Craig, that we have got to this point. I want to thank them sincerely for their efforts as their campaigning means we will have a stronger, more robust HDC regime.
Ensuring the voices of victims and their families are heard throughout the justice system is a top priority for me and this Government. I will continue to keep Craig’s family – and Parliament – updated on progress.