In the past fifteen years we have made great strides in improving the effectiveness of our justice system - recorded crime remains at one of the lowest levels in nearly 50 years. The previous National Strategy for Community Justice set out a clear vision of a Scotland where people are rightly held to account for their offending, but are supported to be active and responsible contributors to their community. Partners have worked hard over the past five years to help achieve this vision. However, we recognise that there is still work to be done to ensure that we can all live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe.
Protecting victims and the public from further harm is our absolute priority. And we see this as being entirely consistent with our aims for community justice – the evidence shows that community-based interventions and sentences can be more effective in reducing reoffending and assisting with rehabilitation than short-term custodial sentences, while protecting the public and robustly managing risk. We firmly believe that while prison will continue to be the right option for some, in many circumstances, keeping individuals out of custody is the best way to prevent further offending, reduce victimisation, and keep our communities safe. We are determined therefore to shift the balance between custodial and community disposals, and to address the fact that Scotland's prison population is still amongst the highest per capita in Western Europe.
This revised National Strategy for Community Justice sets the national direction for community justice by building on progress made to date. It is designed to provide a clear roadmap for future improvement work, by highlighting key areas for partners to focus on – as we recognise that no one has unlimited capacity and prioritisation of work is required.
The strategy sets out four national aims for community justice, and 13 priority actions which the Scottish Government and community justice partners should seek to deliver over the duration of the strategy. To achieve these, partners must work closely together. Effective coordination and collaboration are key and community justice partners must ensure they have a clear focus on delivery.
This is why the strategy will be accompanied by a delivery plan to ensure implementation and drive towards actions at a national, as well as local level. Community justice partners have a statutory duty to have regard to the strategy and work collaboratively to improve community justice outcomes across Scotland.
The strategy will not work in isolation and takes account of and signposts other key pieces of work that are being led by this Government and is fully aligned with the Vision for Justice in Scotland. In particular, we recognise and the strategy acknowledges that many communities and services across Scotland are still being impacted by the consequences of COVID-19.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans
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