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Holyrood passes Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill

1 July 2010

The Scottish Parliament has passed the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill, bringing sweeping reform of the criminal justice system.

MSPs yesterday approved the bill at stage 3 by 64 votes to 61. The legislation has caused a stir with several contentious measures, including the move to all but abolish prison sentences of less than three months.

The presumption against short custodial sentences, in favour of ‘community payback’ arrangements, is intended to “end the revolving door of reoffending”, in which low-level offenders are seen to be pushed further into crime by mixing with other inmates.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill had initially pushed for the new policy to apply to sentences under six months, but was forced to scale this back to secure the support of Liberal Democrat MSPs, who supported the bill together with the Green members.

No less controversial was the Parliament’s rejection of Labour-sponsored plans for automatic prison terms of six months for anyone found guilty of carrying a knife, on which the Liberal Democrats stood with the SNP minority Government.

A ban on paying for sex or advertising sexual services, as well as plans to introduce further restrictions on lap dancing clubs, were also voted down.

Other notable measures in the bill include:

  • a series of new offences to deal with serious and organised crime;
  • a rise in the age at which a child can be prosecuted in adult criminal courts, from eight to 12;
  • a Scottish Sentencing Council to ensure greater transparency and consistency in the sentencing process;
  • provisions in to strengthen the law on stalking;
  • changes to the law on the retention of DNA and fingerprint data for use in investigating and prosecuting crime;
  • a statutory framework for the disclosure of evidence to the defence in criminal cases.