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"Politics is all about people. As a Central Scotland MSP it is both a pleasure and a privilege to meet and become involved with a hugely diverse number of people and organisations"

Margaret Mitchell
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Archive for November 2015

Community Justice (Scotland) Bill- Stage 1

Nov. 19th 2015

Margaret’s spoke in the Scottish Parliament’s Chamber this afternoon in the Stage 1 debate on the Community Justice (Scotland) Bill.

Some of the issues highlighted by Margaret in the debate include:

“The most controversial aspect of this legislation is the narrow definition of Community Justice.

In the Scottish Government’s 2014 consultation on a Future Model for Community Justice, the definition was:

“The collection of agencies and services in Scotland that individually and in partnership work to manage offenders, prevent offending and reduce reoffending and the harm that it causes, to promote social inclusion, citizenships and desistance.”

Whereas now, the definition in Section 1 of the Bill no longer refers to the prevention of offending.

This failure to make any reference to prevention or indeed early intervention represents a major change.

Worryingly, in terms of the Justice Committee’s scrutiny of the Bill and as COSLA commented – the definition in the bill was not consulted upon and appears to have come as a surprise to stakeholders and more importantly to the statutory partners!

Furthermore, it’s attracted widespread criticism from the following organisations:

  • Police Scotland – “To be successful it is necessary to take a whole-system approach; it needs to be right from start to finish. That leads to the emphasis on prevention and early intervention.”
  • Sacrothere is no statement regarding prevention, public safety or community safety
  • Turning point It is disappointing that the Bill does not explicitly direct planning at both national and local levels to consider prevention especially within the wider context of the community planning process.
  • BarnardosIf we are to take a truly preventative approach to community justice, we must start at the beginning and focus on how to keep people out of the justice system and within their communities. As it stands, the definition is restricted to those who have already offended.
  • VSS – the definition does not allow for a greater focus on prevention and early intervention in line with the recommendations of the Christie Commission.”

 There is also criticism that the Bill diminishes the role of the third sector in the planning process, an issue which has been addressed in the Minister’s correspondence of 17th November.

Here in the wider context of resourcing, there are specific references to the third sector, for example:

“Community Justice Scotland will, with Partners and the Third Sector develop and agree a strategic approach to commissioning.”

So while acknowledging the Third Sector’s contribution, it’s still evident that if this legislation is passed then the third sector’s role is, like everyone else currently involved in community justice, to deliver the Scottish Government’s proposed penal reform agenda to extend the presumption against short-term sentences to up to 1 year.

In other words, I am especially concerned, as are stakeholders, that this Bill is a de facto vehicle for the Scottish Government’s penal reforms which, I should add, are currently only at the consultation stage.

In addition to this, these significant changes were made unilaterally, without consulting the very stakeholders who will, in time, have to implement the Bill’s provisions.

Such an approach flies in the face of the collaborative tone adopted by the First Minister when she took office almost exactly a year ago.

Presiding Officer, this is not merely enabling legislation as the Minister asserts. Instead, the Bill contains wide-ranging reforms that need to be the subject of robust scrutiny, particularly following their implementation.

The Scottish Conservatives will be supporting the Bill tonight but our continued support is predicated on these concerns being addressed at Stage 2.”

For the full text of Margaret’s speech and of the debate, please click here.

British Heart Foundation Research

Nov. 18th 2015

Margaret recently met with representatives at the Scottish Parliament from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to hear about how BHF Professors are keeping the UK at the forefront of clinical research into heart attacks and heart failure. They highlighted BHF’s Mending Broken Hearts Appeal, which helps to fund research at the Scottish Centre of Regenerative Medicine.

For more information about the appeal, please click here.
BHF stall 2

Posted by Felicity | in Issues and events, Latest news, Parliament

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