CJVSF response to the Scottish Government’s Programme for 2017-18

CJVSF welcomes a number of the announcements made in the Programme for Government released by the Scottish Government this week.

We are supportive of the plans to extend the presumption against short term sentences from 3 to 12 months.  As we highlighted in our consultation response, this offers an opportunity to reduce the harm caused by short-term sentences and to better address some of the underlying issues which can contribute to reoffending. Simply extending the period covered by the presumption against short sentences, however, will not be sufficient to reduce reoffending nor deliver more positive outcomes for individuals, families and communities.  Confidence in community measures also needs to increase. To achieve this, an extended presumption against short term sentences will need to be accompanied by well-resourced, robust community measures and we would encourage the Scottish Government to set out plans to deliver this.

We also welcome the news that the minimum age of criminal responsibility will be raised from 8 to 12 years.  Our members are acutely aware that the majority of children involved in harmful behaviour at an early age are themselves often the victims of abuse or neglect, and frequently have complex care needs. For harmful behaviours to be addressed successfully, these needs and trauma must be taken into consideration.  Further thoughts can be found in CJVSF’s full response to the consultation on raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility, which is available here.

In our response to the recent consultation on Electronic Monitoring,  we supported the proposed introduction of legislation to permit the use of new technology but noted that this will not in itself be enough to achieve the overarching aim of longer term desistance and we highlighted the need for appropriate support and supervision to be built in to any future development of the EM system. We are therefore pleased to see that a Bill will be introduced this year to enable electronic monitoring to be used as part of more community sentences, court and prison orders and would recommend that the forthcoming legislation should reflect the recommendation of the Working Group on Electronic Monitoring (2016, p7) that, “EM should be part of a wider package of support, delivered locally by statutory bodies with Third Sector involvement”

The Programme for Government also sets out plans to extend three year funding across the Scottish Government.  This is something that CJVSF has consistently highlighted the need for and we would welcome more detail about these plans. Similarly, we are pleased to see additional investment in alcohol and drug services, projects and services which support parents and families, and activities to reduce homelessness.  The third sector plays a critical role in delivering positive outcomes in these areas and we look forward to working with Scottish Government and other partners to create a better future for the people of Scotland