Prisons, do we need them?
The answer is yes, but the age old question of who do we lock up and for what crimes is always a bugbear.
Prison is expensive, it is said to cost the state about £42,000 a year to lock someone up after they have been convicted. This is a huge cost but on top of that figure, everyone who is locked up isn’t contributing to society in terms of production, taxes and having the opportunity to be part of our community.
The greater good is served by locking some people, people who murder, maim and commit other serious offences need to be removed from society because of the danger they represent.
At present, there is a suggestion that only those accused of the most serious crimes will be held in police custody after being charged, this leads to the question, what is serious and where will the bar be set. The move is said to be part of a radical overhaul of the justice system, the SNP love using the word ‘radical’ but it doesn’t have the same meaning for them as it does in the dictionary. Radical in the SNP means a PR gimmick to create a scenario in the minds of the public which may or may not exist. At present, if arrested by police, officers have the option to bail suspects to appear in court at a later date. This is sensible, because we don’t want to clutter up police stations and prisons with people charged with minor crimes such as mentioned like traffic offences.
In 2016, we saw the SNP pass the 2016 Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act, now this is being extended so police to “take every precaution to ensure a person is not unreasonably or unnecessarily held in police custody”.
A spokeswoman added:
“The police will continue to have the option to liberate individuals charged with an offence on ‘undertakings’, which sets a date for a person to make their first appearance at court. The act also introduces ‘investigative liberation’ as a new power for the police to facilitate a suspect’s release from custody, with conditions, allowing the police to continue to conduct their inquiries whilst realising the person’s right to liberty.”
You might want to have a gander at this if you are baffled by the term, ‘investigative liberation’ because basically it sounds to me like, ‘police continuing their enquires’!
Legal sources have raised concerns that only those suspected of murder are expected to be denied police bail, although police have to deal with people who use crime as a funding mechanism to earn money, even repeat offenders will get the chance to get out. One thing which I don’t think will sit well with the public is those suspected of offences like rape being released pending a court appearance.
At present as we keep reading there is a crisis in justice because hundreds of private practice solicitors pull out of providing advice to suspects ahead of the legislation coming into force. Denial of right to a solicitor could see guilty people walk free which isn’t a situation which is tenable. In the past, it took the Supreme Court in
to ensure that the SNP granted accused people the right to legal representation.
The SNP fought against this citing ‘safeguards’ as an excuse to deny human
rights to people, that argument fell flat.
Here is a blog post I did from 2011; the Cadder Case was a clear cut case of human rights being suppressed, why the SNP went ahead with a case when it was patently a loser is beyond me, they were always going to get stuffed. That being the case, justice in
Scotland grinds slowly and as of
Thursday anyone in custody will have the right to ask to speak to a solicitor
at any time, this is important.
For your entertainment, watch this, informative and funny and I would say relevant to guide you through the mysteries of life.
If you fall foul of the law either deliberately or as an innocent, you might find yourself locked up, if so the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) runs the duty rota scheme, so that you can get access to legal advice.
A source said:
“If you are in custody you have a right to access legal advice. If the police can’t provide suspects with the lawyer they have the statutory right to, then they’ll have to make sure the suspects are not in custody.”
Clearly it is in the interests of society that we have duty solicitors on call so anyone in custody will have the right to ask to speak to a solicitor at any time. The problem at present which has slipped off the SNP radar is that some solicitors who cover the duty rota overnight have withdrawn from the scheme, this begs the question why the SNP haven’t ensured that Defence Solicitors’ Office (PDSO), which has bases in Ayr, Dundee, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Glasgow, Inverness and Kirkwall is fit to cope with increased demand.
If Edinburgh Bar Association president Leanne McQuillan is right that her association could not “responsibly advise our members to undertake to service the police station duty scheme as we simply do not have the resources to do so”. It stands to reason that the bulk of this work should be done by a public defender service so that a person’s human rights are respected through-out the entire process.
If later a person wishes a preferred solicitor or firm that is entirely their decision. The important thing is that justice is done and seen to be done so people know our legal system is beyond reproach.
If you have watched the legal system in passing you will see we always get a situation where Solicitor groups across the country have raised concerns about the sustainability of the legal aid system regarding fees at their current level. This is an issue that runs, and it will always do so. Last week solicitors in
Peterhead and Orkney voted to come off the rota, with 50 solicitors in Dundee withdrawing as of yesterday, this isn’t
acceptable, this is a problem and it is a problem which the SNP have left to
fester, well the chickens are coming home to roost now.
Glasgow Bar Association (GBA) decided not to vote on whether to withdraw from the scheme at this stage; they of course do a roaring trade as
Glasgow has a
busy court system.
GBA president Ron Mackenna said:
“Our position is that the majority of our members were in favour of coming out but we’ve agreed to make an attempt at open dialogue. If that fails we will put it to the vote.”
A SLAB spokesman said:
“It is vital there are arrangements to provide advice to those in custody and appearing in court.”
One thing which the SNP justice sec has managed to do rather well after being appointed is to be anonymous, in fact, if he was a pensioner in a flat you might think as no one sees him that he has pegged it on the living room floor.
Justice Sec Michael Matheson is alive!
The salary he earns is still getting drawn, so the people of Scotland should have the right to tell him to fix the problems with the duty rota scheme, if that means having it out in Cabinet with Nicola Sturgeon to get more money, then that is the case he should be fighting.
The Campaign for Human Rights at