11th Report, 2015 (Session 4): Annual Report 2014-2015

SP Paper 745 (Web Only)

Contents

Introduction
Bills

Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill
Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Bill
Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill
Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Bill
Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill
Apologies (Scotland) Bill

Inquiries and reports

Draft Budget scrutiny 2015-16
Police and fire reform
Commission on Women Offenders
Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2005
Review of expenses and funding of civil litigation in Scotland
Road Traffic Act 1988 (Prescribed Limit) (Scotland) Regulations 2014

Legislative consent memorandums

Criminal Justice and Courts Bill
Serious Crime Bill
Modern Slavery Bill

Subordinate legislation
Petitions
EU engagement
Fact-finding work

Agricultural crime
Brain injury and the criminal justice system
Environmental crime and its connections to serious organised crime and money laundering

Engagement and innovation
Equalities
Human rights
Meetings
Justice Sub-Committee on Policing

Remit and membership

Remit:

To consider and report on

a) the administration of criminal and civil justice, community safety and other matters falling within the responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and

b) the functions of the Lord Advocate other than as head of the systems of criminal prosecution and investigation of deaths in Scotland.

Membership:

Christine Grahame (Convener)
Elaine Murray (Deputy Convener)
Christian Allard
Jayne Baxter
Roderick Campbell
John Finnie
Alison McInnes
Margaret Mitchell
Gil Paterson

Note: The membership of the Committee changed during the period covered by this report, as follows: 

Jayne Baxter joined the Committee on 8 January 2015, replacing John Pentland (Scottish Labour Party, Motherwell and Wishaw). 

Gil Paterson joined the Committee on 27 November 2014, replacing Sandra White (Scottish National Party, Glasgow Kelvin) 

Annual Report 2014-2015

Introduction

1. This report covers the work of the Justice Committee during the parliamentary year from 11 May 2014 to 10 May 2015.

Bills

Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill

2. The Committee had published its report on the Bill, which sought to implement recommendations contained in the Report of the Scottish Civil Courts Review (2009) led by Lord Gill, at the end of the previous reporting year. Prior to the Stage 1 debate on 21 May 2014, the Committee visited the Court of Session, the High Court and the Judicial Institute for Scotland. The Committee considered the Bill at Stage 2 on 10 and 17 June 2014.

Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Bill

3. The Bill, which aimed to end automatic early release for certain categories of prisoners, was introduced in August 2014. The provisions in the Bill were originally to have been included by amendment to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill. However, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice announced to the Parliament on 23 April 2014 that Stage 2 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill would not commence until after the Post-corroboration Safeguards Review, chaired by Lord Bonomy, had reported.

4. The Cabinet Secretary then wrote to the Committee on 27 May 2014 advising that the provisions relating to automatic early release would be brought forward as a separate piece of legislation, the Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Bill. The Committee took evidence on this Bill between January and February 2015 and then heard further evidence in March following the Cabinet Secretary’s announcement that he would bring forward proposals at Stage 2 to extend the provisions. The Committee published its Stage 1 report to the Parliament on 19 March 2015. Consideration of the Bill at Stage 1 concluded with the debate in the Chamber on 2 April 2015.

Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill

5. The Bill was introduced in the Parliament on 11 December 2014. The aim of the Bill was to consolidate and strengthen the existing criminal law against human trafficking and the offence relating to slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour and enhance the status of and support for victims. To inform its Stage 1 scrutiny, the Committee split into three groups to visit Barnardo’s Scotland, the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance and Scottish Guardianship Service, to speak with victims and front-line staff about their experiences of trafficking and exploitation. The Committee took evidence during March 2015 and published its Stage 1 report to the Parliament on 24 April 2015. Consideration of the Bill at Stage 1 concluded with the debate in the Chamber on 12 May 2015.

Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Bill

6. The Bill was introduced in the Parliament on 19 March 2015. Its aim was to reform and modernise the law governing the holding of fatal accident inquiries (FAIs) in Scotland. It largely implements the recommendations made in the 2009 Review of the Fatal Accident Inquiry Legislation led by the Rt Hon the Lord Cullen of Whitekirk KT, the former Lord President of the Court of Session, insofar as these have not already been implemented. The Committee took evidence on the Bill during May 2015 and expects to publish its Stage 1 report in the summer.

Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill

7. This is a member’s Bill introduced on 13 November 2013 by the late Margo MacDonald. Patrick Harvie was designated as an additional member in charge of the Bill and he continues to take it through its various stages in the Parliament.

8. The Health and Sport Committee was designated as lead committee and the Justice Committee was designated as secondary committee in consideration of the Bill. The Committee agreed that it was not its role to take a view on the moral or ethical issues surrounding the Bill but to hear evidence and report on the practical application and legal aspects of the Bill, as well as compliance of the provisions with the European Convention on Human Rights, if it were to be passed by the Parliament. In its report to the lead committee, published on 8 January 2015, the Committee made a number of recommendations on the issues raised in relation to the processes and possible implications for that committee to explore in more depth.

Apologies (Scotland) Bill

9. During this reporting period, the Committee started its Stage 1 scrutiny of the Apologies (Scotland) Bill, which was introduced in the Parliament on 3 March 2015 by Margaret Mitchell. The Committee was designated as lead committee for Stage 1 consideration of the Bill on 17 March and issued a call for written evidence on 31 March which ran until 8 May. The Committee is due to take oral evidence on the Bill before summer recess 2015.

Inquiries and reports

Draft Budget scrutiny 2015-16

10. The Justice Committee focused its scrutiny of the Scottish Government's Draft Budget 2015-16 on the courts budget and the police budget. The police budget is by far the largest area of spending within the Justice portfolio, and although the courts budget is much smaller, the Committee was keen to examine the financial implications arising from the planned court closures and reforms to court processes and structures.

11. The Committee received written evidence and heard oral evidence at four meetings from a range of witnesses, including the Chief Constable and Chair of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), and Chief Executive of the Scottish Court Service. It reported to the Finance Committee in December 2014, making a number of observations, including that savings would be much more difficult to achieve in year 3 of police reform and that placing the burden on the SPA and Police Scotland of finding VAT payments could lead to a diminution in the service provided to the public.

Police and fire reform

12. In August 2014 and April 2015, the Committee took evidence from HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland and HM Chief Inspector of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service on their inspection and thematic work in relation to the first year of the operation of the single services. During these evidence sessions, the Committee considered the terms of two petitions referred to it relating to decisions to close a number of emergency and non-emergency call centres.

Commission on Women Offenders

13. In response to two consecutive inspection reports by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, which were critical of conditions at Cornton Vale, the Scottish Government established a Commission on Women Offenders in June 2011 to look at ways to improve the outcomes for women in the criminal justice system. The Commission published its report in April 2012 and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice has reported to the Scottish Parliament annually on progress with implementing the recommendations through a written and oral update to the Committee since 2012.

14. Following evidence sessions in August and December 2014, the Cabinet Secretary wrote to inform the Committee that he had decided that current plans for a prison for women offenders in Inverclyde should not go ahead. The Cabinet Secretary indicated that he wished to reflect on the wider concerns regarding the female prison population before deciding what the configuration of the female prison estate should be.

Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2005

15. In response to a recommendation from the Public Petitions Committee to undertake post-legislative scrutiny of the 2005 Act to “ensure that the intention of this legislation is delivered and that all possible perpetrators of child sexual exploitation crimes are being prosecuted”, the Committee considered a number of written submissions and took evidence from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and Police Scotland on the matter in October 2014.

Review of expenses and funding of civil litigation in Scotland

16. In advance of Stage 2 consideration of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill, the Committee took evidence from the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs on the Scottish Government’s response Sheriff Principal Taylor’s review of the costs and funding of civil litigation in the Court of Session and the Sheriff Court in the context of the recommendations of the Scottish Civil Courts Review.

Road Traffic Act 1988 (Prescribed Limit) (Scotland) Regulations 2014

17. In order to inform the scrutiny of the change to the drink-driving limit proposed in the Regulations, the Committee took evidence from Police Scotland, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems and Scotland’s Campaign against Irresponsible Drivers in advance of formally considering the legislation. The Committee also considered a number of written submissions on the proposals.

Legislative consent memorandums

18. The Committee considered legislative consent memorandums (LCM) on the following UK Parliament legislation: the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill; the Serious Crime Bill (including a supplementary LCM); and the Modern Slavery Bill.

Criminal Justice and Courts Bill

19. The Committee took evidence from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which contained provisions relating to the rehabilitation of offenders and the extension of the new offence of police corruption. The Committee welcomed the provisions of the Bill in respect of the rehabilitation of offenders, as they provided the Scottish Government with the necessary powers to fully implement the package of measures in the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011.

Serious Crime Bill

20. The Serious Crime Bill contained provisions relating to the proceeds of crime, computer misuse, serious crime prevention orders, and female genital mutilation. The supplementary LCM added to existing provisions that seek to prevent the use of mobile phones and other communication devices within prisons. The Committee took evidence from the Minister for Community Safety and broadly welcomed his assurances. However, the Committee remained concerned that there was scope for incorrect identification and blocking of mobile phones and asked the Scottish Government and the Scottish Prison Service to engage with local residents and build in checking mechanisms to avoid these problems.

Modern Slavery Bill

21. The Modern Slavery Bill contained enforcement powers in relation to ships, provisions for the establishment of an independent anti-slavery commissioner and a Review of the National Referral Mechanism for victims of human trafficking. The Committee took evidence from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and, in welcoming his assurances that Scottish Ministers will have a direct role in shaping aspects of the Commissioner’s work, members asked to be kept informed of any issues arising from the Review. The Committee noted that the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill goes further than the UK Modern Slavery Bill.

Subordinate legislation

22. The Committee considered 15 affirmative and 22 negative Scottish statutory instruments during the parliamentary year. The Committee also considered three instruments that were laid but were not subject to any parliamentary procedure.

Petitions

23. The Committee considered several petitions over the course of the year: PE1280 on fatal accident inquiries into deaths abroad; PE1370 on an independent inquiry into the Megrahi conviction; PE1427 on multi-party actions; PE1449 on preserving an independent Scottish Administrative Justice Council; PE1479 on the legal profession and legal aid time bar; PE1501 on public inquiries into self-inflicted and accidental deaths following suspicious death investigations; PE1504 on Civil Appeals from the Court of Session to the Supreme Court; and PE1510 and PE1511 on police and fire control rooms. Petitions PE1449 and PE1504 were closed during the reporting year. All other petitions remain open.

EU engagement

24. The Committee mainly focused its EU engagement plans for 2014 on developments with the UK Government’s decision to opt out of all police and criminal justice measures adopted prior to the Lisbon Treaty and to opt back in to 35 individual measures1.

25. Further to requesting written submissions from a range of legal bodies, the police and prosecutors on the many significant implications the opt-out would have on Scotland and taking evidence from the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, the Committee received an informal briefing from her officials on 5 August. It then received further written updates from the Minister until the block opt-out and the process of opting back in to a number of individual measures was successfully completed on 1 December 2014.

26. The Committee agreed its EU priorities for 2015 in January, including the E-justice programme, various criminal justice measures, and the EU Agenda on Migration.

Fact-finding work

Agricultural crime

27. In February 2015, the Committee held a round-table evidence session on agricultural crime, focusing on the following key areas: the extent and cost of the problem to the farming community; the extent to which those who commit these crimes are opportunists or involved in organised crime; the impact these crimes have on victims and farming businesses; how the farming community and the police are tackling this problem; and any barriers to detection and prosecution.

28. The Committee then wrote to the Cabinet Secretaries for Justice and for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment, seeking details of the steps being taken by the Scottish Government to address the problem of agricultural crime.

29. Subsequently the Solicitor General announced a review of agricultural crime prosecution policy and Police Scotland introduced a number of measures, including creating a Rural Crime Prevention Steering Group.

Brain injury and the criminal justice system

30. A report by Professor Huw Williams, published in 2012, made recommendations as to how service commissioners and providers in the health and criminal justice sectors should work together to ensure that acquired brain injuries were picked up early, treated effectively and taken into account throughout the criminal justice process. In response, the Committee held a round-table evidence session to explore issues raised by the research. After the session, the Committee invited the Scottish Government to respond to the points raised. Having considered the Scottish Government’s response, the Committee agreed to return to the topic once the Brain Injury and offending work-stream of the National Prisoner Healthcare Network had reported in summer 2015.

Environmental crime and its connections to serious organised crime and money laundering

31. In August 2014, the Committee held a round-table evidence session to explore issues regarding the involvement of serious organised crime groups within the environmental sector. The Committee wrote to the Cabinet Secretary seeking a response to issues raised in the evidence session and also in written submissions. In his response, the Cabinet Secretary outlined the measures being taken forward to address the issues, including a refresh of the Serious Organised Crime Taskforce’s strategy Letting Our Communities Flourish.

Engagement and innovation

32. The Committee continued to engage innovatively with a wide selection of stakeholders. Given the sensitive issues to be considered in the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill, the fact-finding visits to Barnardo’s, the Scottish Refugee Council and the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance enabled victims to speak freely with members about their personal experiences in a private, informal setting.

33. The round-table evidence sessions on the topics of brain injury, agricultural crime and environmental crime were particularly appreciated by those who took part as they provided witnesses with an opportunity to engage with the Committee and with each other.

34. The Committee continues to develop its Twitter account, which it launched at the end of January 2015.

Equalities

35. Equalities issues continued to be mainstreamed throughout the Committee’s work. An example is the fact-finding visits to Barnardo’s, the Scottish Refugee Council and the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance that members undertook to inform the Committee’s scrutiny of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill.

Human rights

36. In August 2014, the Committee received the first of its six-monthly updates from John Finnie, rapporteur to Scotland’s National Action Plan (SNAP) for Human Rights, on progress on the SNAP process. A Committee debate on the plan took place in the Chamber in December 2014.

Meetings

37. The Committee held 33 meetings, all of which took place in the Scottish Parliament. Two of the meetings took place entirely in private; 25 meetings involved items taken in private. As is usual practice, items taken in private were mostly to consider draft reports, and also included consideration of the Committee’s work programme.

Justice Sub-Committee on Policing

38. The Sub-Committee held 11 meetings, all of which took place in the Scottish Parliament. The Sub-Committee has heard evidence from the Chief Constable and other serving officers, the Scottish Police Authority and representatives of staff organisations in relation to armed policing, handling of police complaints, ICT, independent custody visiting, local policing and stop and search. The Sub-Committee has responded to emerging issues, such as public concern regarding armed police and stop and search, while looking more strategically at how the new policing arrangements, such as new complaints procedures and structures are working in practice.

39. On 11 June 2014 the Sub-Committee published its report to the Justice Committee on its work in the first year of the operation of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012. The Justice Committee agreed to adopt the report at its meeting on 10 June 2014.


Any links to external websites in this report were working correctly at the time of publication. However, the Scottish Parliament cannot accept responsibility for content on external websites.

Footnotes:

1 Under Protocol 36 of the Lisbon Treaty, the UK Government was required to decide by 31 May 2014 whether to remain within or opt out of around 130 police and criminal justice measures which were adopted prior to the Lisbon Treaty. Remaining within these measures would have seen them coming under the full jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and the enforcement powers of the European Commission.

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