Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Bill

On 12 May 2023 the Stage 1 report on the Children (Care and Justice) Scotland Bill was published. There was broad agreement from the majority of stakeholders that the age at which a young person can be referred to the Children’s Hearing System (CHS) should be raised to18 and that no child (defined as someone under the age of 18) should ever be held in a prison/YOI. There was much discussion about the financial implications of this and the need to address corresponding resource concerns.

Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service Corporate Plan (2023-26) & Business Plan (2023-24)

On 9 May 2023 the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) published its three-year Corporate Plan for 2023-26 and annual Business Plan for 2023-24. They reiterate previously published modelling which predicts that outstanding summary trials should return to pre-pandemic levels by March 2024; that outstanding High Court trials will recover to a new baseline level by March 2025 and Sheriff solemn by March 2026. However it notes that “[t]his may turn out to be optimistic, depending on the volume of indictments”.

Prisoner Voting

On 4 May 2023 the Scottish Government published a report, ‘Prisoner Voting in Scottish Devolved Elections’. It reached the paradoxical conclusion that whilst it considers that “there is not at present sufficient data available to assess the impact of any potential change to the sentence threshold” it also “does not plan to revisit the 12-month threshold for prisoner voting”. We made unsuccessful attempts to engage with the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee which was covering this.

HMP Addiewell Full Inspection

On 4 May 2023 a full inspection report of HMP Addiewell was published. It found that 40% of prisoners reported that they had been abused by staff' and was described by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, as the worst findings she had encountered during her term of office. This was followed by an article on 24 May published in The Ferret which alleged that the situation was even worse than the inspection reported, going on to detail dramatic under-reporting of violence due to fear of reprisals and poor management, with instances of complaints going missing, severe staff shortages and the “covering up” of violent incidents. 

Journey Times in Scotland's Criminal Justice System Report

On 20 April 2023 the Scottish Government published a report entitled, Journey Times in Scotland’s Criminal Justice System’. It found that the time from offence to sentencing had increased during the Covid pandemic: in the first 9 months of 2022-23, 'median journey times' were about 2 years and 10 months in the High Court (a rise of 71% pre Covid), 1 year and 5 months in Sheriff Solemn Court (55% rise), 11 months in Sheriff Summary Court (141% rise) and 10 months in the Justice of the Peace Court (82% rise). The starkest difference was the rise in waiting times for victims of sexual assault whose case goes to the High Court, with the median time in these cases being around 4 years.