The Scottish Government’s criminal justice budget is to come under scrutiny from MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Criminal Justice Committee, which is inviting evidence on the proposed funding package – to be submitted in the next two weeks.
MSPs will examine all areas of the budget in the coming weeks, and consider whether the current funding patterns are sustainable, effective and achieving good outcomes. Ahead of making recommendations to the Scottish Government, they have launched a call for views on funding for the prosecution service and the legal aid sector, courts, prisons, police, fire and rescue, victim support and community justice initiatives.
The committee will also consider whether funding is in place to support the sector to recover from COVID, and whether any of the changes brought in to help cope with the pandemic may lead to longer term savings, if those were desirable and made permanent.
Specifically, the committee is seeking views on questions including:
- Whether the Scottish Government is providing enough budget for the criminal justice sector to recover from COVID-19?
- Whether there have been any savings and efficiencies because of the different way of working during the pandemic, what these savings have been used for elsewhere, and could they be kept once the pandemic is over?
- Whether the Government is providing enough budget for the work expected of the COPFS, and what is the expected impact from the recent cases of malicious prosecution?
- Whether the Scottish Government is providing enough budget to enable people to access justice through the support provided by legal aid in criminal cases?
- Whether further budget and reforms are necessary to tackle the problem of accessing legal aid in remote and rural areas of Scotland?
- Whether the Scottish Government is providing enough budget to attract people to work for organisations providing services funded by legal aid (e.g. defence solicitors)?
- Whether the Government is providing enough budget for the work expected of the Scottish Prison Service?
- Whether the Government is providing enough budget for Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service?
- Whether the Scottish Government is providing enough budget to enable organisations to support victims of crime?
- What money will be required to finance the different criminal justice policies set out in the new Programme for Government and whether any new and extra finance has been allocated for the various initiatives?
Committee convener Audrey Nicoll MSP commented: "Our committee wants to take a wide look at the funding for these services – public and voluntary – and examine whether what we have in place supports the justice system to do what we ask of it.
"It goes without saying that we will need to consider the impact of COVID-19 on the justice sector’s budgets.
"We asked a great deal of those working on the frontline and administering justice throughout the pandemic.
"And while there may be savings from some of the new ways of working, overall, the sector will need a lot of help to recover from the pandemic – for instance, to deal with the huge backlog of trials."
The call for views can be found at this link. The deadline for responses is 1 October 2021.