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Management of Offenders Bill begins Holyrood journey

23 February 2018

A bill to permit GPS and other new technologies to be used in the monitoring of offenders' movements has been brought before the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Government's Management of Offenders Bill would enable the enforcement of exclusion zones, for example around victims' homes.

At present, electronic monitoring is still largely used as a standalone measure to enforce a home confinement curfew, relying on radio frequency technology. An expert group reported in 2016 that it could be used in more integrated ways, alongside a range of supportive measures, to help prevent and reduce further offending while also enhancing security and protection for victims, increasing its potential as an alternative to custody.

The bill also includes proposals to reduce the amount of time people will have to disclose certain convictions, curently set by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, to help them to gain employment; and simplifies and modernises processes for the Parole Board for Scotland.

The rehabilitation provisions would reduce the time periods during which non-custodial disposals, or prison sentences of up to 30 months, would have to be disclosed, and introduce time periods for sentences between 30 and 60 months, which at present must always be disclosed. It does not affect the system of higher level disclosure.

At present the Parole Board requires to have a High Court judge and a registered medical practitioner who is a psychiatrist among its 30 members. The bill would remove these requirements on the basis that the judicial member rarely sits and their role can be fulfilled by the legal members of the Board. There are also sufficient members with experience in forensic psychiatry to provide medical expertise to the Board. It would also change the initial period of office to a five-year term with the potential for automatic reappointment every five years thereafter, to maintain the expertise of members and build on the experience they will have gained. Some minor amendments are also proposed in relation to the functions and requirements of the Board.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, who introduced the bill, commented: "The expansion of electronic monitoring increases the options available to manage and monitor people serving their sentence in the community. Our justice reforms have delivered large reductions in reoffending and I am determined to build on the progress made. It’s our duty to ensure victims see that people who are convicted of an offence are held to account, and they can be assured by the opportunities that electronic monitoring can offer, including in future the use of exclusion zones.

"Changes to the length of time people will have to disclose their convictions can make a huge difference to those who genuinely want to turn their lives around. Gaining employment is often crucial to enabling people to turn away from crime and make positive contributions to the their families, communities and the wider economy and society. This is a key part of breaking generational cycles of offending behaviour in order to reduce reoffending to help keep crime down and communities safe."

Click here to access the bill and related papers.

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