Criminal Justice In Scotland
Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill
UNISON Scotland Response
UNISON Scotland welcomes the publication of the Criminal Justice
(Scotland) Bill. We support the provisions of the Bill that:
Give greater protection to the public
Implements rights for victims, as regards victims'
statements, and information on the release of an offender.
Bans physical punishment of all children under
the age of 3.
However we would wish to see the extension of the
ban on physical punishment to all children, and the removal of
the out-dated clause of "reasonable chastisement". Along
with the ban on physical punishment, we believe that the Executive
should develop a more detailed and focused strategy to promote
and educate people on non-violent discipline.
UNISON has considerable concerns regarding the Bill's
provision to allow police authorities to contract out civilian
support staff who provide vital services to police officers and
the community at large. We oppose this contracting out of a public
UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union with over
145,000 members working in the public sector in Scotland. Our members
are involved in Scotland's criminal justice system, working in social
work, Children's Hearings, police civilian staff, local authorities,
and the health service. UNISON members also work closely with children
and young people in the delivery of health care, social work, pre-school
education and care, school education, and out of school care.
UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to respond
to the Scottish Executive's Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill.
Part 1: Protection of the Public at Large
UNISON welcomes the new proposals for the assessment
and treatment of serious violent and sexual offenders, in order
to provide additional protection to the general public.
Risk Management Authority
We support the establishment of the new non-Departmental
public body - the Risk Management Authority (RMA). The RMA will
have considerable powers and an important remit, and it is essential
that it has the resources, expertise and authority to do carry out
its role and functions effectively.
Risk Management Plans (RMPs) will potentially present
a new area of work for the NHS and local government. Local authorities
and the NHS will have additional responsibilities for preparing
the RMPs and for providing annual reports, if they are given the
"lead authority" role by the RMA. There are considerable
resource and personnel implications to provide this service, and
we trust that this is going to be recognised by the Scottish Executive.
The Bill states that local authorities can bear the
costs or preparing and implementing RMPs from within their existing
budgets. We have real reservations about this, given that local
authority budgets are already under pressure. Whilst we acknowledge
that local authorities currently have a statutory duty to provide
appropriate services for these offenders, local authorities will
need to establish and implement new working arrangements to meet
We welcome the provisions for the RMA to make recommendations
to Ministers concerning the granting of specific funding where it
appears to the Authority that this is required to ensure that a
RMP can be prepared or implemented. However, we believe that the
views of local authorities also need to be taken into account.
Part 2: Victims' Rights
The inclusion of victims' rights within the Criminal
Justice Bill is most welcome. If people are to have faith in the
justice system it is important that the system is transparent, open
and fair for all. A crucial element of this is to recognise, respect
and acknowledge the views and feelings of victims of crime.
Victims' statements are a means of acknowledging the
affect an offence (or apparent offence) has on a person, and ensures
that they are included in the justice process. We welcome the Bill's
references to include statements or communications from victims'
who may need assistance or interpretation to give a victim statement,
and statements from close relatives / cohabitees of victims who
have died or are unable to give a statement themselves.
Rights to information on release of offenders
Equally, victims should have rights to receive information
concerning the release of an offender as set out in the Bill. It
is important that there is guidance on the procedures of giving
and receiving information, and that victims are fully aware of their
rights to receive such information, and how they should apply or
Victims' access to support
UNISON welcomes the provisions to be proactive in
offering victims of crime access to counselling or other support.
Victims of crime should be helped to cope with the physical or psychological
trauma that they may suffer as a result of the crime.
Part 3: Sexual offences etc.
UNISON welcomes the strengthening of the law as regards
to serious and sexual offences.
Part 4: Prisoners etc.
We welcome the Bill's proposals to allow for young
persons (aged between 14-21) to be remanded in young offenders institutions
in certain circumstances. It is preferable to have such young people
placed in young offenders' institutions, which aim at rehabilitating
individuals to return to the community, rather than sending them
to an adult prison.
However, we do have concerns that there is to be provision
to commit a young persons aged 14 - 21 to a prison if the court
Part 5: Drugs Courts
Establishing courts to specifically deal with drugs
offences is to be welcomed. The drugs courts should specialise in
the nature of drugs and drug offenders, and ensure that the criminal
justice system has a greater understanding of the dynamics of drug
offending and drug abuse, so as it can implement appropriate and
positive sanctions and treatments to drug offenders.
Part 6: Non-Custodial punishments
UNISON supports the Bill's provision for a statutory
power of arrest by the police for breach of a non-harassment order.
We believe it is important to recognise the physical and psychological
impact of harassment on the victims of harassers. However we feel
there has to be careful consideration to the provision for arrest
without warrant by a police constable. The Bill should ensure
that the clause allowing a police constable to arrest without
warrant if he or she "reasonably believes (an individual)
is breaching a non-harassment order" is clearly defined and
communicated, to protect the innocent from arrest without warrant.
Restriction of liberty orders
We welcome the option for courts to impose a restriction
of liberty order on an offender (for offences other than those
where the offence is fixed by law) as an alternative to a sentence
which includes a custodial element.
Part 7: Children
Ending physical punishment of children
UNISON welcomes the Bill's proposals to clarify the law in relation
to the physical punishment of children under 16, and to introduce
an absolute prohibition on physical punishment of children under
the age of 3. We believe that it is no more acceptable to "smack"
a child than for one adult to hit another. Hitting:
- Sets children the wrong example by teaching them that the use
of physical force is an acceptable way of solving problems;
- Can lead to more serious forms of child abuse;
- Can cause children long term physical and psychological damage.
Whilst we welcome the Scottish Executive's proposals
to ban the hitting of children under 3 and ban the use of implements,
shaking and blows to the head for all ages, children do need greater
legal protection against assault by adults. The only safe and workable
reform is to give children the same protection as adults under the
law on assault by removing the out dated defence of "reasonable
Promoting non-violent discipline
Central to the banning of physical violence against
children, should be a public information campaign and education
programme on positive, non-violent discipline to support parents
in stopping hitting children. We note the Bill has a provision for
a public information leaflet, however, we believe that a much broader,
strategic campaign is required. This could include advising on non-violent
discipline in parenting classes in schools and colleges, more advice
and practical guidance for new parents in pre- and post-natal care,
and within nursery, social care and other support structures.
It is important that the Executive works in partnership
with workers who may be delivering such programmes in formulating
a non-violent discipline education strategy. Teachers, care workers,
social workers, midwives, and health workers, have a range of skills
and expertise on dealing with parents and children and it essential
that they are consulted and involved in such strategies. Equally
it is crucial that the Executive makes adequate resources available
for this strategy.
We welcome the clause within the Bill to allow Ministers
to set up pilot schemes to test the effectiveness of diverting 16-17
year olds who have committed minor offences away from the criminal
justice system to the Children's Hearing System. It is important
that we have a justice system that achieves a fair balance between
punishing and rehabilitating. Children's Hearings focus on the needs
of the young people, to address how the individual can be helped
and supported, giving a child centred approach to helping the child
ensuring that he/she does not re-offend and is integrated back into
society. The criminal justice system looks at the deeds of individuals,
and punishes the individual accordingly. This can be a harsh regime
for a young person to be exposed to, and is unlikely to offer the
same support and rehabilitation of the Children's Hearings.
If redirecting 16 and 17 year olds who have committed
minor offences to the Children's Hearing System can be effective
in rehabilitating these young people, rather than condemning them
to a potential cycle of crime, this has to be tested, with a view
to implementation. UNISON is clear that the Executive should provide
the additional funding and resources that will be required to facilitate
these pilots, and to ensure that the employees and members of the
Children's Hearings are fully involved in the implementation process.
Part 8 Evidential, jurisdictional and procedural
We acknowledge the rights of individuals to challenge
certain evidence relating to fingerprints and similar data where
it is contained in certificate form. However, as the union representing
employees within this crucial service, we are concerned that workers
carrying out the scientific aspects of fingerprint collection should
be protected from being falsely accused of distorting such data.
UNISON believes clear guidelines on procedures and accountability
should be developed by both management and unions to ensure a fair
system is in place.
Part 10: Criminal Records
UNISON agrees with the extension of provisions regarding
the registration of suitable persons to receive criminal record
and enhanced criminal record certificates are suitable persons.
Part 11: Local Authority Functions
UNISON welcomes the Bill's provisions to allow Scottish
Ministers to authorise funding to local authorities for criminal
justice social work, arrest referral schemes and deferred sentences.
However, we have real concerns that local authorities are being
given considerable new remits to provide advice, guidance, and assistance
to persons arrested or on whom sentences are deferred. This places
additional burdens on social work departments within local councils,
departments that are already under considerable resource pressures
and are suffering recruitment and retention problems.
Part 12: Miscellaneous and general
Police Civilian Support Staff
UNISON is strongly opposed to the part of Bill (Section
61 Police custody and security officers) that provides for police
authorities to contract out the employment of certain civilian support
staff. UNISON has significant membership in this area of work that
will be adversely affected by any contracting out. Police civilian
support staff carry out critical work, of a security, social, or
health nature, and it is essential that such work is carried out
with the appropriate confidentiality and security. UNISON has serious
reservations that the standards of confidentiality and security
can be maintained where certain areas of work are contracted out.
Where public services are contracted out it is employees
that lose out with cuts in pay and conditions, and the public receives
a poorer service. Contracting out creates divisions in workforces
where the police officers are public sector workers, but support
staff are private sector workers. This disrupts team work and adversely
affects morale. Even where existing staff do transfer under the
TUPE regulations, two tier workforces emerge where new starts are
employed on inferior contracts, and all workers are likely to lose
out on pension rights.
UNISON is concerned that the Bill does not give adequate
resources to local authorities for the new provisions expected of
them. Although local authorities already provide services for offenders,
there will be additional financial implications with the Bill's
requirements to change these existing procedures, train and recruit
new staff. As noted above, there are current difficulties with recruitment,
retention and workforce morale within social work. Placing additional
burdens on social work departments without providing the necessary
resources is not going to ease this situation.
We would welcome more reassurances from the Scottish
Executive on funding for local authorities. The bill states that
ring-fenced funding for local authorities could possibly be provided,
on agreement with the Executive and Parliament. However we note
that the potential allocation of ring fenced funding goes against
stated Executive policy - in its 2003/04 Budget the Executive has
declared it wishes to reduce the amount of ring fenced funding for
As noted above UNISON is concerned that the provision
of an information booklet will not be sufficient to change what
is, in effect, a culture of acceptance of the physical punishment
of children. We believe the costs of implementing a successful strategy
to shift the culture away from physical chastisement to one of non-violent
discipline, will be considerable, but worthwhile. Such a campaign
for non-violent discipline will mean that there are resource implications
for the NHS, local authorities and in education. We believe that
the Executive should look at developing such a strategy and meeting
its resource requirements.
For further information please contact:
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835