Women Offenders

Howard League Scotland supported the findings and recommendations of the Commission for Women Offenders’ report published in April 2012, the majority of which were accepted by the Scottish Government. The Cabinet Secretary for Justice made his second annual report to the Scottish Parliament on progress to date. His report can be found here.

Howard League Scotland provided evidence to the Justice Committee expressing concern that the Scottish Government does not intend to reduce the capacity of the female prison estate and that this is likely to militate against greater use of community-based disposals for women. Our submission can be read here.

Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill

Howard League Scotland is one of a coalition of organisations and individuals calling on the Scottish Government to give priority to early prevention and the first 1001 days of a child’s life. Stage 2 of the Bill will take place early in the New Year. More detail on the recommendations of the coalition can be found here.

Prisoner voting and the independence referendum

Prisoner voting and the independence referendum

From mid March until the end of June, we led a campaign to highlight the issue of voting rights for convicted prisoners in the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum. On 11 March, the Scottish Government introduced legislation setting out the franchise for the referendum. The Scottish Independence Referendum (Franchise) Bill sought to extend voting rights to 16 and 17 year olds, as well as ban all convicted prisoners from voting. Our campaign was supported by a wide range of individuals and organisations including the Prison Reform Trust, Sacro, Positive Prison? Positive Futures and Professors Fergus McNeill and Mike Nellis. We made the case for allowing at least some convicted prisoners to vote, highlighting how unusual the UK’s blanket ban is in a European context. Of the 47 Council of Europe nations, only four other major European countries ban all convicted prisoners from voting: Armenia, Bulgaria, Estonia and Russia. We were disappointed that the vast majority of MSPs voted to extend a blanket ban on voting by convicted prisoners in the independence referendum. A review of our campaign can be found here.

Over the past six months, a joint committee of the UK Parliament has been considering Ministry of Justice draft legislation on prisoner voting rights. The Committee issued its report on 18 December, recommending that convicted prisoners serving sentences of less than 12 months should be given the right to vote, and that prisoners should be entitled to apply, up to 6 months before their scheduled release date, to be registered to vote in the constituency into which they are due to be released. The full report can be read here. The Committee also recommended that legislation should be introduced at the start of the UK Parliament’s 2014/15 session. However, the Scottish Parliament’s Franchise Act ensures that, even if there is legislative change at Westminster between now and the independence referendum, convicted prisoners in Scotland will still not be able to vote in the independence referendum.

Independent monitoring of prisons

Independent monitoring of prisons

In September 2013, the Scottish Government laid a draft parliamentary order setting out the future arrangements for the independent monitoring of prisons in Scotland. It is proposed that three part-time paid monitors based within HM Inspectorate of Prisons Scotland will oversee the monitoring of all 16 penal establishments in Scotland and direct an as yet unspecified number of unpaid, lay monitors to carry out monitoring duties. Howard League Scotland, as well as a number of other stakeholders, provided written evidence to the Justice Committee on the draft order ( and Policy and Public Affairs Manager Lisa Mackenzie gave oral evidence to the Justice Committee on 20 November 2013, the official report of which can be found here:

Howard League Scotland is a member of the Independent Monitoring Implementation Group set up by the Scottish Government to implement the recommendations of the Coyle Review that were accepted by the Scottish Government.

Appointment of Howard League Scotland’s first President

Prof Andrew Coyle

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Howard League Scotland’s first ever President, Professor Andrew Coyle. Professor Coyle is Emeritus Professor of Prison Studies in the University of London and Visiting Professor in the Centre for Human Rights in the University of Essex. He has a PhD in criminology from the Faculty of Law in the University of Edinburgh and is a Fellow of King’s College London. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in the New Year’s Honours 2003 for his contribution to international penal reform.

Between 1997 and 2005 he was founding Director of the International Centre for Prison Studies in King’s College London. Previously he worked for 23 years at a senior level in the prison services of the United Kingdom and was Governor successively of Greenock, Peterhead, Shotts and Brixton Prisons.

He is a member of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland and the UK Foreign Secretary’s Expert Committee against Torture.

He is a prisons adviser to several United Nations bodies, the Council of Europe, including its Committee for the Prevention of Torture, and several national governments. He was one of the main drafters of the European Prison Rules 2006 and drafted the Code of Ethics for Prison Staff which was agreed by the Council of Europe in 2012.

In 2012 he was asked by the Scottish Government to review its proposals for independent monitoring of prisons. He submitted his review in January of this year and the Government is currently consulting on a draft Order setting out new arrangements for independent prison monitoring.