Penal Policy

Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2021/22

On 28 November 2023, the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2021/22 was published by the Scottish Government. This doesn’t include reported crime, but instead is the result of surveyed experiences and perceptions of crime and the justice system. It showed that the volume of crime, including incidents not reported to police, has fallen by 53% since 2008/09, with violent crime decreasing by 58% and the proportion of people experiencing crime falling from one in five, to around one in 10.

Criminal Justice Committee: Pre-budget Scrutiny Report 2024/5

On 24 November 2023, the Criminal Justice Committee published its pre-budget scrutiny report, summarising the evidence received, with its conclusions and recommendations best summarised by the following:     

“[t]he Committee is of the view that the funding situation facing the criminal justice sector cannot be allowed to continue …. We cannot … continue to provide ever increasing small sums of finance seemingly to effectively stand still in a business-as-usual fashion…. The Scottish Government and others through its Justice Board should identify and implement what the Cabinet Secretary herself recognises are spend to-save reforms. With some upfront investment, such reforms should yield cost savings over the longer term and have clear timescales … [D]ebates around the numbers of people we send to prison and the need for effective alternatives to incarceration through community disposals have been longstanding with no discernible move to realising this…. There is still inconsistent provision of effective community justice disposals …. In time, this reform should reduce prison numbers which in turn reduces costs, reoffending and the number of prison places needed, or even the number of prisons. Savings from these reforms can be reinvested in the system.”

Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Act 2022

On 23 November 2023 the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Act 2022 (Extension and Expiry of Temporary Justice Measures) Regulations 2023 was passed. The regulations expire some of the temporary measures and extend the remainder until 30 November 2024 e.g. the increase in the length of time someone can be held on remand in summary cases has expired, but the increase in the length of time someone can be held on remand in solemn cases has been extended to 30 November 2024; and the provision to allow the emergency early release of prisoners in response to the effects of Covid-19 has also been extended until 30 November 2024.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Statement to the Scottish Parliament

On 03 October 2023, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice made a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Scotland’s prison population. She advised that she was still “absolutely committed to    a replacement for HMP Barlinnie”, however, there is still no finalised timeframe for its delivery (“[o]nce the design plans are finalised, we will have a much better and more accurate estimate of both costs and timescales, but it is a journey that we are determined to pursue”).

HMP Barlinnie’s Governor-in-Charge, Michael Stoney, has recently repeated his concerns, saying, “[w]e sit on a knife-edge of worry that it might not happen … our hearts and souls are in it, but 2026 is looking highly unlikely. It will be 2027 at best.”

Recorded Crime in Scotland 2022-2023

On 20 June 2023 the Scottish Government’s Recorded Crime in Scotland 2022-2023 figures were published. Since last year, crimes recorded by the police in Scotland increased by 1%, with the recording of crime remaining at one of the lowest levels seen since 1974. Non-sexual crimes of violence decreased by 1%; crimes of dishonesty increased by 11%; and sexual crimes decreased by 3%. However, recorded sexual crime has increased by 70% over the past 10 years.





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