Benefit to victims through reforms to imprisonment and bail.
New legislation which proposes changes to the way imprisonment is used in Scotland – while placing victims at its heart – has been published.
The Bail and Release from Custody (Scotland) Bill will refocus the way remand is used, with an emphasis on remand being reserved for those who pose a risk to public safety, or those who wilfully fail to turn up for their trials meaning justice will not be delivered for victims.
The Bill also aims to give a greater focus to the rehabilitation and reintegration of people leaving prison to help them resettle in their communities.
The changes are designed to lead to greater public protection and victim safety and are intended to reduce crime, reoffending and victimisation.
Proposals include the publication of new national standards for support for people leaving prison, ending release on a Friday or the day before a public holiday so people are better able to access support and a new test the court needs to apply when deciding whether to refuse bail and to remand accused persons in custody.
The Bill will also enable the provision of information about prisoner release to victims’ organisations to inform the support they provide and will explicitly recognise complainer safety as a specific factor in how the court makes decisions on bail.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans Keith Brown said there will be a continued focus on cutting crime and reoffending, creating fewer victims, with reconviction rates already at one of the lowest comparable levels since records began and recorded crime lower than in the early 1970s.
Mr Brown said:
“We know that short-term imprisonment in particular disrupts families and communities, adversely affecting health, employment opportunities and housing – the very things that we know prevent reoffending.
“This Bill recognises prison will always be necessary for the most serious cases, but we need to look again at how custody is used.
“The Bill sets out proposals which will refocus the use of remand and support the rehabilitation and reintegration of people leaving custody, for example through improved release planning and support.
“This is an important step in the Scottish Government’s commitment to transforming the justice sector and a commitment to refocus how imprisonment is used.
“We know our approach is working, reconviction rates and recorded crime are at historically low levels.
“I visited HMP Edinburgh to witness the excellent work the Scottish Prison Service is doing to prepare people to return to their communities, including supporting recovery from addiction.
“The Bill aims to build on that excellent work, providing further opportunities to support reintegration.”