The Vision for Justice in Scotland

We set out our transformative vision of the future justice system for Scotland, spanning the full journey of criminal, civil and administrative justice, with a focus on creating safer communities and shifting societal attitudes and circumstances which perpetuate crime and harm.

Ministerial Foreword

Justice is fundamental in ensuring we live in safe, inclusive and thriving communities. It supports the rule of law and our democracy, and is a core part of our public services.

We have a long and proud tradition of effective justice in Scotland and a reputation of which we are justifiably proud. We have worked over many years to strengthen and modernise the justice system, making improvements to ensure we have a system in which individuals and communities have trust.

With a new parliamentary term and against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, our new Vision builds on our 2017 ‘Justice Vision and Priorities – A just, fair, resilient Scotland’.

While fundamental tenets such as fairness, fulfilment of our civic rights and respect for the rule of law remain an absolute constant, our justice services must transform to meet the needs of people in today’s society. This includes ensuring that all parts of the justice system deliver person-centred services and embed trauma-informed practices.

This is especially important when we consider how women and children experience justice. We must recognise how the system, as historically designed by men, for men, can perpetuate societal inequalities for women and children. I am resolute in the duty we have to ensure that women and children are served appropriately and with compassion.

Many people who are in contact with the justice system require a range of supports to help them move forward, not always from justice bodies and agencies. We need to ensure that everyone is treated as individuals first and that the right services are provided to the people who need them at the right time.

To quote Audrey Nicoll, Convener of the Criminal Justice Committee and ex-police officer:

“Policing in Scotland has evolved in recent years. It prioritises keeping people safe, protecting victims’ rights and dealing effectively with offenders while upholding the fundamental human rights of everyone who comes into contact with the service. However, the fact remains that there is a population of people who continue to enter custody having committed no crime or offence, frequently experiencing mental health issues and, in essence, being criminalised by a system that exists to protect them."

As Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans, I am determined to ensure we are all supported at the earliest opportunity to improve our life chances and to avoid contact with criminal justice services.

Success in building safer communities and preventing crime requires a partnership approach across justice bodies and the wider public sector. This document aims to set a common vision for how we can move forward with such a joint approach.

This vision has therefore been informed and developed by those who are instrumental in delivering this change including our third sector partners and has been endorsed by the National Justice Board. Discussions over recent months have been wide-ranging, reflective of the breadth and depth of the issues set out here. I wish to thank all those who continue to contribute to the delivery of the justice system, including the important role our legal profession and third sector partners play. Discussions have shone a bright light on the valuable contribution you play and the need for us all to work together to deliver meaningful change. As Cabinet Secretary, I am fully committed to continuing that partnership approach as we work to deliver this Vision.

Keith Brown, Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans



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