National Strategy for Community Justice

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.

Aim 1: Optimise the use of diversion and intervention at the earliest opportunity

Where appropriate and relevant, effectively diverting people away from prosecution – or away from the justice system entirely – can allow individuals to address a range of issues, behaviours or needs which have contributed to their alleged offending at the earliest opportunity. This improves outcomes for both individuals and communities, and can lead to less offending and reoffending and, ultimately, fewer victims and harm to society. We also recognise that those who come into contact with the justice system often present with higher levels of vulnerability than the general population and often have complex needs. We therefore want to ensure that, wherever appropriate, people are diverted away from the justice system at the earliest opportunity following arrest, and that suitable, appropriately informed and tailored opportunities, which reflect the nature and severity of the alleged offence, are provided to address underlying needs and causes of offending behaviour.

Over the duration of this strategy community justice partners will:

1. Enhance intervention at the earliest opportunity by ensuring greater consistency, confidence in and awareness of services which support the use of direct measures and diversion from prosecution

The effective and appropriate use of police and fiscal direct measures, including diversion from prosecution, can allow individuals to address a range of issues, behaviours or needs which have contributed to their alleged offending at the earliest opportunity – including allowing beneficial interventions to individuals who do not enter police custody. This may be particularly effective in supporting those with dependence on substances or a mental health need. We must optimise the mechanisms for direct measures, for example by enhancing information pathways and supporting consistency of use by Police Scotland and COPFS. We must also ensure that effective services, provided by justice social work and the third sector, are in place across Scotland for individuals to be diverted into, recognising the differences between rural and urban geographies. These services should be available in a timely manner and allow individuals to meaningfully engage. Decision -makers should also have an understanding of, and confidence in, the schemes which are available locally.

2. Improve the identification of underlying needs and the delivery of support following arrest by ensuring the provision of person-centred care within police custody and building upon referral opportunities to services including substance use and mental health services

The Scottish Government takes seriously the responsibility of ensuring those going through the justice system are appropriately supported, treated and cared for, while ensuring their rights are maintained, especially during challenging times that may have a significant impact on people's mental wellbeing.

In line with Police Scotland's commitment to a public health approach to policing, we want to ensure that those who are entering police custody (who, partly due to structural and systemic barriers, are often less engaged with community health, social care and other services and who often experience poorer health outcomes than the general population) have their needs identified. We want to ensure these people can access trauma-responsive healthcare and/or a pathway to appropriate support or interventions, reducing the likelihood of involvement in offending behaviour in the future.

Arrest referrals and referrals from health partners are key to this process, ensuring best use of the 'contactable moment' during a person's time in police custody. We want to ensure that individuals can immediately be referred to a full range of services, irrespective of their location. Services should be available at the point of need and individuals should have choice and control in relation to their own support and, where appropriate, be supported to attend services.

There requires to be a focus on the provision of support for mental health and substance use issues, including both drugs and alcohol. There is evidence of a high prevalence of substance use in individuals coming into contact with the justice system. Many people who have died a drug related death have been in recent contact with the justice system. Community justice partnerships should collaborate with Alcohol and Drugs Partnerships (ADPs) on the full implementation, embedding and mainstreaming of the Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) standards across Scotland, especially in justice settings.

Substance use and mental health problems often go hand-in-hand – and many people need multi-faceted support simultaneously. Support may also be available from healthcare professionals, such as nurses, who are situated in police custody. Where appropriate, immediate crisis support should be provided, and we recognise the importance of the Distress Brief Intervention (DBI) Programme which is to be rolled out to all NHS Board areas by 2024.

Addressing homelessness is also key and proposals being taken forward in relation to new Prevention of Homelessness Duties envisage a duty on public bodies to 'ask and act' about an individual's housing situation. The proposals are based on the principles of shared public responsibility and earlier intervention to prevent homelessness and include proposals for the involvement of partners including Police Scotland, health and prisons.

Those with communication support needs, including autistic people and people with learning disabilities, should also be proactively identified and supported. This can include the use of reasonable adjustments and communication support from an appropriate adult during police investigations, where applicable.e.



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