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This Week in 60 Seconds

Lawrie Scott-McFarlane

Justice secretary discusses the expansion electronic tagging

Much of this week’s parliamentary business is concerned with justice and law reform. On Tuesday, the Justice Committee will be hearing from Michael Matheson and the Scottish Sentencing Council. The Committee is taking evidence on the Scottish Government’s proposals to extend electronic tagging, which are contained in the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill. The Bill consolidates much of the law around tagging and will provide an over-arching set of rules for electronic monitoring. Expect MSPs to probe the details of the provisions, particularly on the use of new technologies such as GPS and alcohol monitoring. In the past, the Conservatives warned against using electronic tagging as a way to “empty prisons” and the Justice Committee itself has been conducting visits to understand how the technology will work in practice. The Scottish Government says the expansion in electronic monitoring will help the rehabilitation process, while the Sentencing Council has broadly welcomed the Bill on the basis that it gives sentencing authorities a greater degree of flexibility. However, it warned that “careful monitoring and evaluation” would be needed to ensure tagging works effectively. Expect Lord Turnbull, who is currently chairing the Sentencing Council, to discuss these matters with the Committee in greater detail.

Historic pardons for gay men

On Wednesday, MSPs will debate the Historic Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disgregards) (Scotland) Bill at Stage 3. This Bill is intended to give redress to those convicted of same-sex sexual offences that are now legal. It will formally pardon those who were convicted and create a system for “disregarding” these convictions so they no longer appear on police records. To achieve this, the Bill creates a broad definition of historic offences, including those that were directly discriminatory against gay men and those that could have been used in a discriminatory way such as breach of the peace. The Bill itself has the support of all parties at Holyrood and only a few amendments have been lodged during the entire legislative process. We can therefore expect MSPs to take the time to mark the historic significance of the moment and speak out against discrimination in general terms.

MSPs to consider review of Scottish hate crime legislation

Lord Bracadale’s Independent Review of Hate Crime Legislation in Scotland was published last week. The Scottish Government is holding a debate on the report on Thursday. The report recommended that statutory aggravations should continue to be at the core of how hate crimes are dealt with in Scotland. It was suggested that separate categories be created for age, gender and intersex related hate crimes. Ministers were also asked to create new provisions to tackle the “stirring up of hatred” against to protected groups and the exploitation of vulnerable people. The report was broadly welcomed by opposition parties and other groups, although a number of women’s organisations have since expressed disappointment over the report’s focus on legal consolidation. They have instead called for the creation of a separate offence for misogyny. These calls have been backed by Labour, which is asking Ministers consider new legislation to protect women. The report also concluded that no specific legislation was needed to cover discrimination at football matches, so we can expect opposition parties to get some digs in at the Scottish Government following the repeal of its controversial Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012.

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