27 April 2010

Update from a Bothy...

My hands and entrails warmed by a rich, gummy Tappit Hen broth, frog-spawned with barley, I sat in the dark, utterly jiggered. Having supped my supper, I lay down, pillowed on the copy of the Natural History of Gallinaceous Birds; with a memoir of Aristotle (1843) which I'd managed to snatch before I left civilisation. After a mighty day out flyting the clods, my thoughts were only of rest and of the crumbly arêtes of tomorrow. In my half-stupor, imagine my surprise to find my repose interrupted by the steady throbbing of a tiny light. Investigating this with peat-stained fingers, I discovered to my shock and awe that my sheltering bothy, out in the wilds, boasts a steady wireless connection! It seemed only right to use its powers for good and not for evil, so...

By way of clarification, to alert the interested, some of you may recall that over the weekend I mentioned the Review of the Hamilton & Airdrie Youth Courts (2010) and the Review of the Glasgow & Fife Drug Courts (2010). Perusing the reports' findings - they were hardly stellar. Although mostly indeterminate in terms of these specialised court's efficacy at reducing recidivism among the young and drug use among addicted person, they did have good things so say about the tribunals' procedural felicities, their comparable speediness and virtues identified by the personnel who work in them. Obviously, to supercharge law's lethargic engines requires continuous, rather expensive tweaks to the process. In that context, I speculated that Scottish Ministers, aiming to trim a few pounds from about their waists, may have been tempted to cut the programs - with political consequences. It may be in time that they will do just that. Cue Labour fulmination. Equally, one can compellingly argue that the Reviews' indeterminacies present a good reason why the exploratory pilot processes should go on - let the matter fully unfold, and we'll see whether the promise of better, a more effective criminal process can be realised.

If I'd been a more diligent servitor in your interests, however, I'd have noticed that Fergus Ewing, Minister for Community Safety, didn't just publish the Reviews on Thursday - but also delivered the Scottish Government's answer to the question which rested (particularly in the case of Youth Courts) on the reports' verdicts - would their experiments continue? Expand? Would the Government foot the bill? Here is what he said, in a parliamentary answer (S3W-33309) to the SNP's Nigel Don:

Nigel Don (North East Scotland) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive when it will publish the reviews of the drug courts and youth courts.

Fergus Ewing: The reviews of the drug courts in Glasgow and Fife and youth courts in Airdrie and Hamilton have been published today (Bib. numbers 49573 and 49574). Following broadly positive evaluations, I have decided to extend funding for both drug courts and youth courts for a further two years until 31 March 2012. During this period, we will continue to work closely with local partners to ensure best value for money and that resources are targeted at the most effective interventions. We will also draw on the best practice and lessons learned from specialist courts to develop a toolkit for other courts, and we will be consulting the judiciary on the scope to extend the problem solving approach into mainstream courts. Proposals under the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill to introduce scope for ‘progress reviews’ of the new Community Payback Orders reflect the aim for a more offender focused approach. There are no plans to fund additional drug courts or youth courts.

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