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.

Our Transformation Priorities

Our services, third sector partners and legal profession must be person-centred and trauma-informed.

Person-centred justice services will ensure that a person’s needs and values are respected. There will be timely, clear communication ensuring people understand areas of complexity. Individuals and their families will be involved in decisions which affect them, with a recognition that people are the experts in their own lives. This means that within the parameters of legal frameworks and justice processes, people will be treated as a person first. People will be treated with empathy and kindness and provided with the support they need to thrive.

Many of the issues that bring people to the justice system are very traumatic. It is our duty to ensure that we minimise further trauma or re-traumatisation to help recovery. Embedding trauma-informed practice will ensure that our justice services recognise the prevalence of trauma and adversity, realise where people are affected by trauma and respond in ways that reduce re-traumatisation.

We must also strive to work across our public services to improve outcomes for individuals, focussing on prevention and early intervention.

We must not criminalise those who are most vulnerable in our society. We have a moral imperative to ensure that prevention and early intervention efforts enable us all to thrive in our communities.

We must therefore reset the social contract with our public services – ensuring we are all supported at the earliest opportunity to improve our life chances and reduce our risk of offending.

We know that to address the causes of crime Scotland’s public services together must tackle societal inequalities such as child poverty, mental ill health, addiction and adverse childhood experiences.

We must also ensure that the right services are provided at the right time to the right people and where possible, support people to avoid contact with justice services.

Achieving our vision requires a fundamental change. Iterative reforms and changes to our existing structures and processes will not take us far enough on the journey. We must transform our justice services, ensuring services are designed for and by those who need them.

Our justice services will be for you, with you at heart.

Priority actions:

Women and children in justice

The simple and unpalatable truth at the heart of the abuse and violence that women and girls face is that it continues to be underpinned by inequality, societal attitudes and structural barriers that perpetuate that inequality. This includes the operation of the justice system. The current justice system was historically designed by men, for men, and thus does not meet the needs of over half of our society. We must therefore take urgent action to ensure women and children are better serviced by our approaches to justice.

We remain absolutely committed to making improvements to the justice system which will benefit and empower women, building on the recommendations provided by Lady Dorrian in her report on the Management of Sexual Offences. We are also committed to ensuring children caught up in justice processes for any number of reasons are fully supported. We remain committed to the aims of the Youth Justice approach ensuring families are supported to improve their wellbeing and life chances at an early stage. During the lifespan of this vision we will fulfil our commitment to provide access to a Bairn’s Hoose for every child who needs it, ensuring a trauma-informed response to child victims and witnesses of serious and traumatic crimes in a familiar and non-threatening setting.

Hearing victims’ voices

We must hear the voices of victims. To support victims in their journey to healing and recovery we must offer approaches to justice which place victims at the heart. This includes progressing forms of justice which allow victims to take a prominent role including greater use of restorative justice routes. We know that delay and uncertainty cause great stress to victims and survivors. COVID-19 has exacerbated the time for cases to progress through the criminal justice processes, with more victims subjected to this additional stress. We must therefore build greater resilience into our critical services using a toolkit of options, supported by digital technologies, which allow justice services to operate efficiently and continue to function in the face of adversity.

Shifting the balance between use of custody and justice in the community

While there will always be a place for prison we must take a person-centred approach to rehabilitation where people are supported in the most appropriate and effective setting. We will shift the balance to ensure the role of custody will be reserved only when no alternative is appropriate, instead seeing a greater availability of justice options within our communities. In doing so we will ensure that public protection remains a priority and that people going through the criminal justice system have access to the support and rehabilitation they need. This will reduce crime and further offending, and make our communities safer, reducing the number of victims who suffer trauma and harm.



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