Friday, November 18, 2011

Justice in chaos as plan to scrap cornerstone of Scottish justice system meets heavy criticism, Bar-L is overcrowded, can we get justice in Scotland?

Dear All

For some it is a ‘second’ home, free bed and board, no bills, free gym; free dental and free education.

Scotland’s premier University of Crime.

It is the one and only Bar- L, referred by some as the big hoose but commonly known as HMP Barlinnie.

However Barlinnie is too popular with ‘customers’ and Sheriffs; both groups simply love the place!

Scotland’s biggest jail needs to be demolished and rebuilt or completely redeveloped according to the prison’s watchdog and its governor.

The problem with Barlinnie is that it was built in a less enlightened time, were human rights and others issues weren’t a concern of the authorities.

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Brigadier Hugh Monro, says in his report that there is a need to redevelop the jail “as soon as possible”.

Overcrowding in Barlinnie is severe and poses real risk to prisoners which mean that programmes such as rehab face real difficulties.

The population yesterday stood at 1565, in a jail built and staffed to deal with 1018 inmates.

50% above capacity!

HMP Barlinnie governor Derek McGill says rising inmate numbers, which hit 1760 last year mean there is “no option” but to knock down and rebuild the jail or find a new site.

I think the sensible thing to do would be to build a new prison rather than try to do a major overhaul of the current site.

I think we can stand losing this piece of Scottish history.

We need a greater debate on the people we are sending to prison and for what, for some, it’s a cheap hotel.

And an occupational hazard!

Monro told said:

“Barlinnie and Cornton Vale are in dreadful condition. We need to see evidence that proposals to redevelop them are being brought forward now rather than waiting for the budget to improve. It is not fit for purpose, the education centre has three classrooms for 1500 people. I get disappointed when I see so little action, not from the prison itself but from the Scottish Prison Service headquarters. I don’t think it is right that people ignore advice and do nothing. This is not a third world country.”

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said:

“I welcome this report which shows Barlinnie is running efficiently and effectively albeit in challenging circumstances. The Chief Inspector commented that this is one of the most positive reports he has written and I commend the work of Barlinnie’s dedicated staff and management. I am committed to building a prison service for the 21st century and the opening of HMP Low Moss in March 2012 will help relieve some of the overcrowding pressures faced at Barlinnie and the wider prison estate.”

If the Justice Sec is ‘committed’ to building a prison service for the 21st century, why are people living like pigs, stacked up like tinned meat on a supermarket shelf?

I am not a Kenny MacAskill supporter and never have been, typically when there is a damaging incident for the SNP Scottish Government, it comes out of Justice.

Megrahi, Cadder and Nat Fraser immediately spring to mind, the Cadder case was about the denial of human rights under Kenny MacAskill’s watch, which incidentally he fought tooth and nail to preserve when better legal minds showed him the error of his flawed and warped logic.

The UK Supreme Court attack was an utter disgrace as MacAskill overstepped the mark.

“He who pays the piper!”

In Justice, “He who pays the piper!” is entitled to fuck all.

I previously blogged on why the SNP Government was totally wrong in their approach and was proven correct at every turn, that was so easy!

I don’t see Kenny McAskill as the Justice Sec but rather as the Minister for the Crown Prosecution Service only, a Justice Minister should be impartial, his actions show otherwise.

And now we are going to have another argument and guess what and where that will be taking place?


This time, it is over the Carloway Report and in particular the issue of corroboration.

Already Senators of the College of Justice, Scotland’s High Court judges said the loss of this “key safeguard” would “weaken” the system and could lead to more miscarriages of justice.

If the SNP don’t sort out justice, then we will have to build more prisons because as well as the guilty, we will be locking up the innocent.

No justice means no independence.

If I was elected First Minister of Scotland, I would make Alex Neil as my Justice Minister, give him a free hand and the brief that his actions are solely to make justice impartial and beyond the interference of Government.

Then we would have a justice system of the 21st Century for the 21st Century.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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