Holyrood votes to pass new management of offenders legislation

25 June 2019, 19:26 | Updated: 25 June 2019, 19:27

An electronic tag

MSPs have passed legislation which will give police new powers to enforce curfews for offenders who are electronically monitored.

In a vote at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, MSPs voted by 82 to 26 to pass the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill.

The new law will hand police new search and entry powers in order to apprehend offenders who breach a home detention curfew (HDC).

Proposals were brought forward following the case of Craig McClelland who was murdered in 2017 by an offender who had cut off his electronic tag.

The legislation will also amend the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, with the aim of striking a better balance between the rights of people not to disclose previous offending behaviour and to move on with their lives, with the rights of the public to be protected.

Legislation concerning the Parole Board, a tribunal whose main role is to take decisions on whether to allow prisoners to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community, will also be amended as part of the Bill.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said that the legislation will help to improve the criminal justice system in Scotland.

"This is not about hard or soft justice, but about smart justice," said Mr Yousaf.

"As a result, we believe these reforms will also help reduce new offending."

He added: "The Bill takes forward a number of important changes to improve the criminal justice system in Scotland.

"It positions us well as a country looking to the future, not just in terms of how we embrace new technological developments, but most importantly, in how we configure a justice system that is both progressive and one that is based on evidence of what is effective in reducing reoffending, while importantly and crucially, keeping people safe."

Scottish Tory MSP Liam Kerr, whose party did not vote to pass the Bill, said that it could put the public at increased risk because of some of the amendments that MSPs failed to add to the legislation.

"The Bill has rightly commanded a lot of time, both in Committee and in this chamber, but arguably not enough," said Mr Kerr.

"I fear there is a considerable chance that it will put the public at increased risk and deny justice to the victims of crime and it's because of those implications that I reiterate my concern that we have dealt with three possible considerable issues at once."

Scottish Labour MSP Mary Fee said: "Whilst I do welcome the reforms to electronic monitoring, not a single penny of additional funding is being made available to address the underlying causes of criminal behaviour.

"Without that, we are setting up people to fail on their release from prison.

"For the reforms to be truly successful, they must be backed by substantial budgets in community justice, in social work and in wider services that tackle poverty, health inequalities and promote education."

Scottish Green MSP John Finnie said: "It is progressive legislation and I don't think we should apologise for it or where it sits in the criminal justice landscape in relation to other provisions that have been talked about, including disclosure and the presumption against short sentences.

"Scotland has a shameful number of people in its prisons and we need to empty these prisons and we need to close some of these prisons.

"We need to ensure that public safety is paramount and electronic monitoring can play a part in that."

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur said: "Passing legislation is inevitably the easy part. Making the changes a success will take effort, collaboration and resources.

"While the Scottish Liberal Democrats will support the Bill, we continue to hold government to account in ensuring that ministers will will the means, as well as willing the ends."