Alison McInnes MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : 28 January 2015
Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) (LD)

I am so pleased that the Cabinet Secretary for Justice has reflected on the plan for HMP Inverclyde and listened to the progressive voices that were raised against it. The Howard League for Penal Reform, Families Outside and many others across civic Scotland played an important role in securing that outcome. His decision has presented us with another opportunity to do things differently and to redefine the experiences of women who come into contact with our justice system.

In responding to the Angiolini report almost three years ago, Kenny MacAskill said:

“how women are dealt with in the criminal justice system is one of the most pressing social justice issues of recent times.”

I agreed then and I agree now. What dismays me is how faltering the progress has been in the interim. Efforts must now be redoubled to bring about the radical and more ambitious approach that the cabinet secretary talked about. I have long campaigned for that, and the Scottish Liberal Democrats will offer steadfast support if the Government is up for such radical change.

We should take a moment to praise the staff at the Scottish Prison Service who were tasked with delivering HMP Inverclyde. Led by Kate Donegan, a former governor of Cornton Vale, they had to operate within the constraints that the Scottish Government set. It is evident that they worked extremely hard to ensure that the facility would be as sympathetic as possible to women offenders’ needs, and I am certain that much of their enlightened thinking could be usefully adopted elsewhere in the prison estate. However, I agree that the fundamental plan for a prison of the proposed size in the proposed location was too significant a departure from the Angiolini report. Building to meet projections only risks entrenching the mistakes of the past.

The commission on women offenders made scores of recommendations. I ask the cabinet secretary to end the fragmented approach to their implementation and to commit today to implementing the package in the round. It really is the radical, ambitious and sophisticated programme that he mentioned and is seeking. Many of the reforms are complementary and require a multi-agency, holistic response. The cabinet secretary will therefore need health boards, local authorities, the judiciary and others to buy into the vision.

That brings me to my amendment. The current lack of judicial diversity is indefensible and has contributed to serious failings in the sentencing of women. The Judicial Appointments Board’s diversity strategy acknowledges that the composition of the judiciary must reflect the diversity of society and that

“A judiciary whose members are drawn from a wide range of backgrounds and life experiences will bring varying perspectives on legal issues and is likely to enhance public confidence”.

However, the statistics reveal a different story. Just nine of the 34 senators of the College of Justice are women. Only 30 of the 139 sheriffs sitting on the bench and one of the six sheriffs principal are women.

Indeed, Scotland is among the worst in Europe for equality among the judiciary. Last October, the Council of Europe reported that, of the 47 council members, only Azerbaijan has a worse gender balance. In contrast, the gender balance around Europe is almost equal. In France, Spain, Italy, Holland, Finland and Denmark, the majority of judges are female.

It cannot be that only in Scotland are such a small number of women able and experienced enough to sit on the bench. Why is the number of women in the eligible pool increasing faster than the number of applications for judicial office from women?

Only a third of women remanded in custody go on to receive a custodial sentence. In 2011-12, four fifths were serving sentences of six months or less. The number of women convicted of a crime has gone up by 14 per cent in the past 10 years, but the number in custody has more than doubled, yet all the while the gravity of offending has remained the same. When all that is the case, we are surely compelled to consider how the judiciary can better utilise the available disposals. How can we ensure that judges have greater confidence in community-based services and innovative approaches such as restorative justice?

The commission on women offenders identified that there was scope to expand the breadth, depth and regularity of training on sentencing. The Scottish sentencing council could make a difference by promoting understanding and consistency in sentencing practice. The Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Carloway, believes that the council can generate a shift from punishment to rehabilitation. He suggested that

“It will advance Scotland into a more civilised era where retribution other than in relation to the most serious of crimes, will have a smaller plate at the sentencing table.”

Reducing the prison population, reducing the number of people held on remand and ending senseless short-term sentences all hinge on sentencing policy, yet the council still has not been established, four years after Parliament legislated for it.

At the heart of improving the situation for every woman who comes into contact with Scotland’s justice system is the need to break down such barriers, overcome misconceptions and increase understanding. That is the only way to ensure that sentencing is focused on rehabilitation and addresses the specific and distinct needs of women.

I move amendment S4M-12160.1, to insert after “women offending”:

"; considers that further judicial training, greater judicial diversity and the establishment of a Scottish sentencing council would help ensure that sentencing is focused on rehabilitation and addresses the specific needs of women offenders”.



Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : 28 January 2015
Alison McInnes

I am pleased that the debate has been largely consensual. That reflects a growing realisation of the immense benefits of a holistic, multi-agency approach to offending. As we all know, the commission on women offenders provided a framework for transforming alternatives to prosecution and remand. It justified an overhaul in sentencing practices and it demanded better throughcare services that transcend prison walls, continue to support women when they are released and are focused on successful reintegration.

The debate has made it clear that there is cross-party support for implementing that package of reforms. I therefore emphasise that a half-hearted or pick-and-mix approach to implementing the commission’s recommendations is simply not coherent. It is not justified by the evidence of what works.

HMP Inverclyde risked entrenching failure. Spending £75 million on a new prison would have perpetuated many of the shortcomings that we have heard about from members. That spend dwarfs the £3 million that the Scottish Government has invested in community projects for women in the past three years. Kezia Dugdale rightly called for them to receive sustainable funding. We must ensure that they are part of a permanent network of credible, trusted alternatives to custody. We are talking about safe, structured environments, such as the 218 service, that focus on the issues that underpin offending—mental and physical ill health, addiction and sexual and physical abuse.

Early intervention has contributed to a transformation in how the justice system deals with young offenders, but I fear that we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to women offenders. Once again, sadly, Cornton Vale offers the most distressing evidence. There, some 80 per cent of inmates have mental health problems, and they are 10 times more likely than male prisoners are to self-harm. Problems are not being identified, addressed or accounted for early enough, and I return to the prolonged use of isolation and the challenging and complex behaviour that Prison Service staff must cope with as a result.

Answers to my parliamentary questions have revealed that, in 2013-14, women were held in solitary confinement for extended periods on 144 occasions. In the worst case that I am aware of, a woman was isolated for a total of 387 days during a 17-month period. Long-term solitary confinement does little to support rehabilitation or address underlying trauma; rather, it risks compounding the serious mental health conditions that often underpin offending behaviour. We should be ashamed that it is being relied on as a management tool for borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is completely out of step with a 21st century criminal justice system.

I welcome the review by the chief inspector of prisons of the use of segregation and separation. However, I am dismayed to learn of a delay in that work. I had believed that it would be presented to us in February, but I understand that that might now happen in the summer.

The orders for extended segregation are signed on ministers’ behalf. The previous justice secretary claimed that that was an operational matter, and he could not tell me who signed off the orders or even whether any had ever been declined or revoked. They can be renewed indefinitely with no system of external review. That is dreadful.

The justice secretary is responsible for ensuring that Scotland has a humane prison regime. He must provide clear leadership on the issue. I urge him to look at that and to amend the prison rules so that an independent panel can consider whether back-to-back isolation orders are appropriate in all cases. I also ask him to instruct a review of the provision and resourcing of services for the vulnerable women involved. The commission on women offenders recommended that almost three years ago. Those steps are essential if basic human rights are to be protected.

We know that the Scottish Prison Service has a responsibility to accommodate the women whom it is sent by the courts. However, as we have heard, prison is often simply not the right place for them. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment urged the Scottish Government to ensure the swift transfer of such vulnerable prisoners to appropriate psychiatric facilities. I know that in one recent case that took almost nine months.

The national health service must take more responsibility for such women’s care. The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland tells us that women in custody are asking for more professional support from psychiatrists or psychologists. It confirmed that the care that they receive in prison is nothing in comparison with that in other settings, such as hospitals.

More in-depth assessments and reporting could help judges to make the right choice during sentencing and custody hearings. The fact that 70 per cent of women who are remanded in custody do not go on to receive a custodial sentence demonstrates that something is going badly wrong.

I am determined that halting the building of HMP Inverclyde should not result in a vacuum, because Scotland’s justice system cannot continue to fail such women any longer. It cannot continue to fail them every step of the way, from prosecution to rehabilitation.

I am reminded of comments from the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Carloway. He suggested that future generations may reflect on our placing so many people behind walls and barbed wire as barbaric.

It is worth noting that all members rightly commended the justice secretary for his change of tack. However, let us not kid ourselves that the way forward is now easy. Richard Simpson and Gil Paterson spoke of a political truce, and Christine Grahame said that Parliament must show leadership. I urge everyone to work together to redraw the landscape for women in the justice system. We had better prepare for a marathon, not a sprint, but let us stay the course, because the prize is great.

17:02  

Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : 28 January 2015
Alison McInnes

I thank the minister very much for taking an intervention, as the cabinet secretary was not able to address my amendment. Does the minister agree that dialogue with the judiciary and greater judicial diversity are also important?



Justice Committee 27 January 2015 : 27 January 2015
Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) (LD)

I want to pursue that issue a bit further with you, cabinet secretary, if you do not mind. You said that you hope that the ending of automatic early release will “act as a driver”, but we have heard mixed views on that. We heard from Professor Miller that equity in the provision of and access to programmes across Scotland will become more important and that there will perhaps be a human rights issue if prisoners are not able to access release through parole because they have not had access to the proper programmes due to demand pressures or programmes not being available in a particular area.

Professor Miller referred to the

“consequences for prisoners’ rights if they are not given the rehabilitation programmes that they will be looking for more than in the past.”—[Official Report, Justice Committee, 13 January 2015; c 15.]

He said that the committee needs to consider that as a foreseeable consequence as we go forward. Will you reflect on that?



Justice Committee 27 January 2015 : 27 January 2015
Alison McInnes

Thank you.

10:30  

Meeting of the Parliament 27 January 2015 : 27 January 2015
1. Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) (LD)

To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the announcement that plans for HMP Inverclyde have been abandoned, what consideration it has given to interim arrangements for women prisoners in HMP Cornton Vale. (S4T-00910)



Meeting of the Parliament 27 January 2015 : 27 January 2015
Alison McInnes

I warmly thank the cabinet secretary for listening to the voices of reformers and taking a bold decision. I share his ambitions for a fair and progressive justice system, but it is essential in the interim to tackle the known shortcomings in the system. Both the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment recently commented adversely on the difficulties and delays caused by the lack of high-security mental health provision for women in Scotland. The Government has been urged to put in place arrangements to ensure swift transfer to an appropriate psychiatric facility from prison. Last year, it took more than nine months to transfer an extremely vulnerable prisoner to Rampton secure hospital. In light of the recommendations from those two organisations, what steps has the Scottish Government taken?



Meeting of the Parliament 27 January 2015 : 27 January 2015
Alison McInnes

The cabinet secretary will know that I have been gravely concerned about the number of young women held in Cornton Vale for extended periods of time in solitary confinement in the separation and reintegration unit. The compound distress and trauma underlying the behavioural problems for those women who are contained in that way is immense and the prolonged isolation can only add to their ill health. HM inspectorate of prisons for Scotland agreed to undertake a thematic inspection of the segregation procedures. The cabinet secretary’s predecessor advised me in writing that that work would be concluded by February this year. Will the cabinet secretary update the chamber on the progress of that work and say whether it will report in time? Will he review the checks and balances that are currently in place around the rolling use of rule 95 and look into the provision of independent advocacy for those vulnerable prisoners?



Justice Committee 20 January 2015 : 20 January 2015
Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) (LD)

Mr Johnston, the Risk Management Authority’s written submission says:

“We are aware that the Scottish Government is currently considering the feasibility of extending the scope of the MAPPA to establish arrangements for certain non-sexual offenders”.

Does not that suggest that some part of the Government understands the issue? Therefore, is it not contradictory to bring forward the bill at the same time?



Justice Committee 20 January 2015 : 20 January 2015
Alison McInnes

What legislative framework is needed to extend MAPPA?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-12182.1 Alex Fergusson: The Chilcot Inquiry—As an amendment to motion S4M-12182 in the name of N
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-12182 Nicola Sturgeon: The Chilcot Inquiry—That the Parliament calls for Sir John Chilcot’s offi
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

S4M-12176 John Swinney: Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the gene
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

S4M-12160.2 Michael Matheson: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Kez
>> Show more
AbstainCarried

S4M-12160.3 Margaret Mitchell: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Ke
>> Show more
AbstainDefeated

S4M-12160 Kezia Dugdale: Women Offenders—That the Parliament welcomes the decision of the Scottish G
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12154.1 Lewis Macdonald: Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) – Supporting Indivi
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12120.1 Jenny Marra: 2020 Vision, the Strategic Forward Direction of the NHS—As an amendment to
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12101 John Swinney: Budget (Scotland) (No.4) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the general prin
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12095.4 Ken Macintosh: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Alison McInnes
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12160.1: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 27/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12088: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 16/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11963: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 19/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11852: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 09/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11448: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 05/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11261: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 21/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10829.1: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 19/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10700: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 31/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10472: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 24/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10347.2: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 16/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Alison McInnes
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03981: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 26/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4T-00910: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 26/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24132: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 22/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24135: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 22/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4T-00900: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 19/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23911: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 07/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03894: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 05/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23740: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 18/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23743: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 18/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23742: Alison McInnes, North East Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 18/12/2014 Show Full Question >>

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