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Evidence to Education and Skills Committee: Disclosure (Scotland) Bill

On 6 November 2019, one of our Committee Members, Dr. Beth Weaver, gave oral evidence on our behalf to the Education and Skills Committee on the Disclosure (Scotland) Bill.  Her evidence focused on why individualised and structured discretionary models of disclosure could not be applied to adult, as well as, childhood convictions. She argued that the onus should not be on the individual to apply to have convictions removed and that no fee should be incurred for this. The issue of other relevant information (ORI) was deemed to be key and should only be disclosed when proportionate, balancing public protection against individuals' rights. With this in mind, she urged a need for legal clarification on what information "is" or "ought" to be relevant, highlighting the need for universal guiding principles to accompany the Bill.

Oral Evidence to Education and Skills Committee

HMP Glenochil Full Inspection

On 11 October a full inspection of HMP Glenochil was published. Many of its findings were related to issues of overcrowding and therefore mirrored inspections of other prisons within the estate. Specific issues included low levels of confidence in complaints mechanisms; automatic increases in cell populations; breaches of Mandela Rule 23 (1hr outdoor exercise per day); excessive time spent in cells; and a lack of purposeful activity for all prisoners.

HMP Glenochil Full Inspection Report

Council of Europe's European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

On 11 October the Council of Europe’s European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment published a report on its visit to Scotland from 17 - 25 October 2018. Our Honorary President, Professor Andrew Coyle and Convenor, Professor Richard Sparks, were involved in consultations on HLS's behalf. 

The purpose of the visit was to examine the situation in police and prison establishments in Scotland and to assess the progress made since the CPT’s previous visit in 2012. Specific attention was paid to those held in segregation; in remand; women prisoners generally; and to overall healthcare issues. In addition, the delegation examined the treatment of people in police custody and carried out visits to several police custody facilities across Scotland. 

The Committee’s report made a number of criticisms of the treatment of people held in police custody, including instances of excessive use of force upon apprehension by police officers and an opaque police complaints’ system.

Its critique of prison establishments acknowledged that the Scottish Government had embarked upon an agenda of reform, but that reforms were still at a nascent phase. It noted a rise in inter-prisoner and prisoner-on-staff violence; the prevalence of NPS (new psychoactive substances); unacceptably restricted regimes; and inappropriate use of Separation and Reintegration Units (SRU).

Specific examples of a lack of progress since previous visits by the Committee included the use of “dog boxes” in the reception area of HMP Barlinnie – an issue which was first raised in 1994 – and which had not been resolved; and the negative impacts of severe overcrowding, where some prisoners were being held in cells with less than 3m2 each of living space.

Particularly serious concerns were raised about the treatment of women held in segregation at HMP YOI Cornton Vale, despite seven years having passed since the publication of the Commission on Women Offenders Report, led by Dame Elish Angiolini.

Three immediate observations were made under Article 8, paragraph 5 of the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The contrast between the findings of the CPT and that of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland’s (HMIPS) programme of inspection and monitoring were also highlighted, despite the latter’s inspections adopting a human rights based approach underpinned by the PANEL principles of Participation, Accountability, Non-Discrimination and Equality, Empowerment and Legality.

The Response of the Government of the United Kingdom to the Report was a defensive one, unlikely to encourage long-term sustainable change. We will continue to push for action on the important issues raised in the Report.

Council of Europe’s European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Report

Response to Council of Europe’s European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Report

Pre-Budget Scrutiny

On 9 October 2019, the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee took Pre-Budget Scrutiny evidence from a number of witnesses, including Colin McConnell (Chief Executive, SPS). His evidence included discussion about contingency plans if all, or part of, a facility such as HMP Barlinnie failed, where the hypothetical situation was described as "unchartered territory". It was noted that this wasn't something that had been come across in work in three of the UK jurisdiction prisons, but that in the event of catastrophic failure, there would be a number of options. One was based on the knowledge that SPS has active contingency plans for up to 500 additional people to be located in other establishments, noting that in the early stages this would compromise of no more than a mattress on the floor and the provision of appropriate toiletries. It was outlined that if the whole prison became unusable, there would be a requirement to talk to the Scottish Government about executive release, because SPS could not find places for 1,400 people in a system which is already overstretched. 
 
The evidence stated that the SPS had a current operating capacity of 7,669 with an operating emergency capacity of 8,492. With current numbers at 8,297 this would leave headspace of 195 places.
 
 
 

Throughcare Service Provision Announcement

Following the news of July 2019 that the Scottish Prison Service planned to temporarily suspend its Throughcare service due to staffing pressures linked to the rising prison population, it was announced on 25 September 2019, that the 'New Routes' and 'Shine' partnerships led by the Wise Group and Sacro respectively, would make support available for more prisoners released from short term sentences of up to four years. 

The Throughcare service previously provided by SPS had been widely praised. We support the reintroduction of this vital service, but lament the need for the redeployment of the 42 Throughcare Support Officers to front-line duties as a result of the increasingly high prison population and rates of absence amongst SPS prison staff.

Reintroduction of Throughcare Support Service

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