Scottish Liberal Democrat spokeswoman Alison McInnes MSP has today said significant changes are required if the Community Justice Bill is to ensure judges view community rehabilitation plans as a viable alternative to jail.
The draft bill, which was debated this afternoon, has already been criticised by former Lord Advocate Dame Eilish Angiolini, who warned that unless it is made stronger, imprisonment could remain a tempting default position for judges.
The committee report also criticised the Scottish Government’s treatment of community justice funding, which has resulted in charities having to reconstitute under different names in order to secure funding.
Criminal justice voluntary sector organisations and others have also raised concerns that the bill lacks ambition and requires significant alteration if it is to make a meaningful contribution to achieving a progressive justice system.
Commenting following the debate Ms McInnes reiterated:
“Although Scottish Liberal Democrats support the general principles of the bill, significant changes are needed if we are to support it further.
“Liberal Democrats want safer communities and people brought to justice when they offend but we believe everyone deserves to have a chance to get back on track.
“More Scots are behind bars per head of population than in almost any other nation in Western Europe. Punishment and retribution have dominated penal policy for far too long and do nothing to reduce reoffending levels, the economic and social costs of which are immense.
“It is vital that community justice arrangements are strengthened and I urge the government to heed the warnings of criminal justice voluntary sector organisations and others who have raised concerns about the bill. As currently drafted it is too timid to bring about the dramatic change needed.”