Please find below updates relating to COVID-19 for the Community Justice Forum.  If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Susan Morrison at

  • The Scottish Police Service (SPS) have published information for families and visitors on using their new online service to transfer money to those in their care here.
  • The SPS have released a FAQ for visitors.
  • Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 update: The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 1st April 2020.  This emergency legislation introduces considerable changes to how justice in Scotland will operate over the next 6-18 months and includes provisions empowering the government to:
    • Release people from prison
    • Extend the length for completion of all current community payback orders that include an unpaid work or other activity element by 12 months
    • Further vary or postpone community orders en masse as required
    • Allow trials to take place remotely and for evidence and documents to be submitted and served electronically
    • Increase the maximum amount that can be imposed by a fiscal fine to £500
    • Change how the Parole Board operates to allow it to sit remotely
    • Make changes in the law to prevent eviction of people from their homes
    • Makes changes to the children’s hearing process
  • Inverness Justice Centre opens: Inverness Justice Centre opened on 30 March to enable Inverness Sheriff and Justice Of the Peace Court to operate as a hub court during the Coronavirus outbreak.
  • Prison visits and FAQs: As of 24th March, all visits to Scottish prisons have been suspended, with the exception of critical agent visits which will continue to be facilitated (although, with the reduction in court business, it is anticipate that these types of visit will reduce).  From 26th March 2020 families of those in Scottish prisons can contact a new family helpline, set up to provide support and guidance. The number is 0131 330 3888 and it is available Monday – Friday, 9am-3pm. The SPS has also published a frequently asked questions resource for families and visitors that sets out the current processes for families and visitors and sets out some of the steps that have been taken in prison to respond to the outbreak. You can read the FAQ here
  • Online learning: Person-focused working in the Good Prison: Lemos & Crane has a free online course available for staff and others, including volunteers and charity staff, working in prisons and custodial institutions that shows how you can use strong interpersonal and communication skills to work with people in prison in a more effective and empowering way, both for yourself and for the people you work with. The aim is to help you to focus on the wellbeing of people in prison as well as support them in their rehabilitative journey.
  • Community Justice Scotland have released this manual on working with men who abuse their partners during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • The Griffins Society sponsors research to bring about change in how women and girls are dealt with in the criminal justice system. Their Research Fellowship Programme offers a unique opportunity to explore your own interests or concerns about the treatment of women in the criminal justice system.  Applications for this year’s Fellowship Programme are now open and further details can be found on The Griffins Society website.
  • Scottish Drugs Forum Webinars: People with drug problems and the services they use have been severely affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.   As part of its response, Scottish Drugs Forum is hosting a series of free webinars. These will address crucial aspects of the support of people with drug problems and the delivery of effective services that provide treatment and support, reduce harm and protect people from COVID-19.  The first SDF Pandemic Webinar will be held on Friday 17th April at 13.00 -14.00.  This will focus on the delivery of opioid substitution treatment (OST) with a particular focus on contingency planning for pharmacy service reductions.  Speakers will be:
    • Laura Rothney, Senior Nurse Practitioner, Aberdeen Substance Misuse Service, NHS Grampian
    • Carole Hunter,  Lead Pharmacist, Addiction Services, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (TBC)
    • Tracey Clusker, Nurse Team Manager, NHS LothianPre-registration is required and numbers are limited so please register early.  Please click here to register
  • SHMU would like you to know that if you have a friend or loved one in HMP & YOI Grampian? Or just want to reach out with a positive message of support? Please email your message (written or recorded) and a song request to will play your message and request as part of our daily show being broadcast to the prisoners through our ‘Staying Connected’ project.
  • Mobile phones to be provided in prison: The Scottish Government has announced its plans to provide people in prison with mobile phones to help support mental health, wellbeing and family contact. The phones will have security restrictions and will have limited functionality. A schedule has not yet been set for their introduction as the Scottish Government and SPS are currently looking to resolve a number of legal and technical issues preventing their doing so at the present time. You can read more in the Scottish Government press release here.
  • The Scottish Government have announced that short-term prisoner coming towards the end of their sentence may be considered for release.  Their statement can be found here.
  • Third Force News: Charities urge rethink over jury free trials.  Read the article here.
  • Sacro response to COVID-19 Outbreak – Article: Annie Mauger-Thompson, who has recently joined CJVSF Member Sacro as their new Chief Executive, has written an article in the Sunday Post setting out how the organisation has been responding to the recent outbreak and what early release from prison will mean for the people being released and for the services supporting them. You can read the full article here.
  • Overall Recorded Crime Down on Last Year: Figures released by Police Scotland have shown that overall recorded crime appears to have dropped by around a quarter on the same period last year following the introduction of social distancing measures. The figures show significant drops in assaults and housebreaking compared to this time last year although crimes of domestic abuse appear to have risen slightly (with actual incidents of domestic abuse likely higher still given the nature of the crime). While it’s too early to draw any conclusions, the figures make for intereting reading! You can find the Police Scotland release here.
  • Ministerial statement on Justice and COVID-19:  The Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf, gave a ministerial statement on the Justice sector response to Coronavirus in Parliament on Tuesday (21st April).  This included information about the approach taken by Police Scotland, steps being taken to support victims of domestic abuse, an update on how courts are operating during COVID-19, an update on prisons and confirmation that the Scottish Government has now asked the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) to consider the release of a limited number of short-sentenced prisoners towards the end of their time in custody (further details below).
  • Plans for Early Release of Prisoners Confirmed: The Cabinet Secretary for Justice has confirmed that the Scottish Government are making plans to allow for the early release of some people from prison. Those people serving an 18 month or less sentence who have only 3 months left to serve of their sentence will be eligible for early release. Under the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act a number of categories prisoners are excluded from early release (such as those convicted of sexual offences or terrorism related offences) and prison governors will be able to veto the release of prisoners they deem to pose an “immediate risk of harm to an identified person”. The new regulations to implement early release will extend these exclusions to include those serving sentences for domestic abuse offences, those with non-harassment orders or those convicted of certain COVID-19-related offences. Currently the Scottish Government are estimating that this could mean up to 450 people could be eligible for early release under the criteria, although this number is expected to be reduced following the use of governor vetoes. Releases will begin from the end of April and take place over 4 weeks. You can read more details in the Cabinet Secretary’s statement of 21st April here.
  • SPICe Blog – Trial By Jury:  The Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre has written a blog, outlining what has been happening in relation to jury trials following the introduction of social distancing restrictions.  It also provides background information on criminal trials in Scotland – both with and without a jury. This follows the Scottish Governments recent discussion paper on proposals for continuing criminal trials during the outbreak, which you can read here.
  • Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill: The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 23rd April 2020. The Bill adds Age to the grounds on which people are protected from hate crimes and creates a new crime of stirring up hatred against any of the protected groups covered by the Bill.
  • Griffins Society Fellowship applications now open: The Griffins Society sponsors research to bring about change in how women and girls are dealt with in the criminal justice system. Their Research Fellowship Programme offers a unique opportunity to explore your own interests or concerns about the treatment of women in the criminal justice system.  Applications for this year’s Fellowship Programme are now open and further details can be found on The Griffins Society website.
  • Extended Distribution of Naloxone Kits 
    A statement given by the Health Secretary Jeane Freeman at a media briefing on Sunday 3 May referred to the Lord Advocate’s statement that for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis, it would not be in the public interest to prosecute anyone distributing naloxone. Under existing UK legislation, supplies of naloxone can be held by non-drug treatment services for use in an emergency, but not for onward distribution. While this is a temporary measure, there is expected to be calls from experts and campaigners to make this change permanent to enable onward distribution of kits to where they are most needed. You can read the statement here.

    1. Consultation: Scottish Sentencing Council Guidelines: The Scottish Sentencing Council is seeking your views on their draft guidelines for the sentencing of young people.  The deadline for responses has been extended to the 21st August 2020.Source: CJVSF Newsletter
      1. Early Release of Prisoners update: On 30th April 2020, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice wrote to the Justice Committee Convener explaining there would be a slight delay in plans for early release. On 1st May, a further letter was sent, along with a copy of the draft regulations, confirming that these were to be laid in Parliament on 4th May 2020.  The draft Regulations make provision for:
        • a limited number of short-term sentenced prisoners to be considered for release on or after 4 May 2020. Eligibility for release will be limited to those who are sentenced to 18 months or less and who, on 4 May 2020, have 90 days or less left of their time in custody
        • a number of further exclusions in relation to domestic abuse, harassment and Covid-19 related offending
        • a Prison Governor to be able to veto someone from the scheme where they consider that the prisoner presents an immediate risk of harm to an identified individual.
      1. Prison regime for those who are self-isolating: On 28th April 2020, SPS published information on what the prison regime entails for those who are isolating, which sets out the steps they have taken and the procedures that are in place for those isolating.
      2. Updated info for families affected by imprisonment: The Scottish Prison Services has updated the list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for families and visitors on their website. 
      3. Support for people leaving prison: On 3rd May, the Cabinet Secretary for Health (Jeane Freeman) announced  new support for people who are in prison or about to leave prison. This includes:

      o    £150,000 to enhance residential rehabilitation services.   Up to £1.9 million available to support people in prison, who need opiate substitution therapy (OST) – The funding will make a new treatment (Buvidal) available to people in prison (further details below).

      1. Opiate Substitution Therapy (OST) in prisons: At present, approximately 25% of people in Scottish prisons receive a daily authorised Opiate Substitute Therapy (OST). In order to ensure continuity of OST, support social isolation and restricted movement within prisons and to support staff during the current pandemic, the Scottish Government, Scottish Prison Service (SPS) and partners have identified Buvidal as an alternative OST for use within prisons. Buvidal is available as a 7-day or 28-day injection, which would reduce administration and treatment episodes.  Health Boards and Integration Authorities are now being asked to transfer all prisoners currently on OST, serving a sentence of six months or longer, onto injections of Buvidal where this is clinically appropriate. On 1st May 2020, the interim Chief Medical Officer wrote a letter, outlining opiate substitution treatment in prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic. Accompanying Guidance for the use of Buvidal for opiate substitution treatment in prisons during the COVID-19 pandemic has also been developed (Published 1st May 2020).
      2. Justice Committee Stage 1 report on the Children (Scotland) Bill : The Justice Committee has published its Stage 1 report on the Children (Scotland) Bill.  The policy aims of the Bill are to:
        • ensure the views of the child are heard in contact and residence cases;
        • further protect victims of domestic abuse and their children;
        • ensure the best interests of the child are at the centre of contact and residence cases and children’s hearings; and
        • further compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in family court cases

      The Committee is supportive of the general principles of the Bill but highlights concerns raised by various stakeholders, including concerns around the appropriate infrastructure and resources being put in place to ensure that children’s views are heard and sufficient funding for contact centres.

  • CREW have launched a survey on Drug Markets during the COVID-19 Outbreak.
  • A message from Families Outside:
    • Further to the Government’s announcement , short term sentenced individuals can be released on or after 30 April 2020.  Figures indicate that approx 36 short-term sentenced individuals have been identified to be released from HMP Grampian back into Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire across a four week period starting from 30 April 2020. .  This could have a huge impact on children and families if not supported appropriately.  In view of this I would like to communicate what Families Outside can offer in terms of support.Families with a loved one in prison are having to cope twofold, not only with the stress of the COVID-19 measures, but also the concern for their family member in prison.  This has led to extreme levels of anxiety and hardship resulting in an unprecedented level of demand on our service. Visits to prisons have been suspended, and any contact families are able to make has become increasingly challenging.  This loss of face to face contact and  the restrictions placed on getting money or items into prison have resulted in families feeling a sense of disconnect, hopelessness and potential loss.  At this incredibly difficult time for all of us, Families Outside continue to support in the most effective ways we can whilst keeping our own staff safe and closely following Scottish Government guidance. This means we can’t offer any face to face support at present, but we will be on the end of the phone, email, text, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype, Facebook, and Twitter. Despite all the changes that the Coronavirus has brought, we are still supporting families through our:

      If you or someone you are working with needs support, please contact us.

  • Updates from the Justice Committee: The Justice Committee will meet on Tuesday 2nd June 2020 to further discuss the challenges in restarting jury trials and to consider the legislative consent memorandums relating to the Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 and the Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Bill [HL] 2019-21 (UK Parliament legislation). The official papers for the meeting can be found here.
  • Family Stories – Locked Up In Lockdown: Families Outside have shared an article on their website from a family member they’ve been supporting.  It discusses what prison life has been like for people in prison and the effects it has upon their families outside.
  • Keeping Connected Booklet: Families Outside have worked in partnership with Streetsport to create an activity book that people in prison and families can do while they are apart. These simple and fun activities and games can be done with little or no materials, making them suitable for people in prison as well as their families.
  • Early Release of Prisoners Update:  All three tranches of the planned early releases have now been completed and SPS have published data showing a breakdown of the numbers released in each tranche. In total 445 people were considered for early release. There were 348 people released early under the regulations, 63 uses of the Governor veto and 34 people released for other reasons.
  • Direct Access to Residential Rehabilitation Services for People Leaving Prison:  For individuals leaving prison, who would benefit from accessing an abstinence based residential rehabilitation programme to further their recovery, a 7 step process has been developed.  Further details can be found here and in this accompanying letter
  • Updates from the Justice Committee: The Justice Committee met today Tuesday 16th June 2020 to discuss the re-opening the courts in Scotland and the prosecution of crime during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Committee also considered Prisons, Young Offenders Institutions and Covid-19 and the impact of COVID-19 on criminal justice social work and the criminal justice voluntary sector.  A copy of the meeting papers can be found here and the Official Report will be available shortly.
  • Impact of COVID-19 on Crime: A new monthly bulletin showing Official Statistics on crimes and offences recorded by the police in Scotland has been published.  It shows a reduction in the overall number of crimes reported during April 2020, whilst the country was in lockdown, but an increase in some types of crime, such as fraud.
  • Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2018/19 Published: The Scottish Government has published the latest iteration of the Crime and Justice Survey today, which shows that experiences of crime in 2018/19 are broadly the same as those reported in the previous survey in 2017/18. Generally speaking, the survey shows that overall crime levels have fallen by about 45% in the decade since 2008/9. The survey has also looked at people’s experiences of cyber crime for the first time and has continued to explore public perceptions of prison and community sentences. You can read the findings of the 2018/19 Crime and Justice Survey and find all the accompanying documents here.
  • Disclosure (Scotland) Bill passed: The Disclosure (Scotland) Bill was passed on 10 June 2020. This Bill aims to simplify the process for disclosing criminal history information and introduces significant changes to disclosure for youn people. It also makes it mandatory for anyone who wants to work with children, young people or vulnerable adults to be a member of the PVG scheme.
  • CYCJ Report on Young People’s Experiences of COVID-19 and Justice Published: The Centre for Youth Crime and Justice have published a new report on children and young people’s experiences of COVID-19 and the justice system.  The report “Spend Time With Me” shows that children and young people are feeling increasingly isolated as a result of the crisis. You can find more information on the research from CYCJ here and you can read the full report here
  • New Diversion from Prosecution Guidance published:  Community Justice Scotland, along with partners including Social Work Scotland, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, Scottish Government, Police Scotland and the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice, have published new guidance around diversion from prosecution.
  • Disclosure (Scotland) Bill Scheduled for Debate: The Stage 3 debate on the Disclosure (Scotland) Bill has now been scheduled for this Wednesday 10th June. The Bill, which was introduced to Parliament back in June 2019 following a lengthy consultation process, makes a number of significant changes to the disclosure system, both for employers and for people with convictions. This briefing has been prepared for MSPs ahead of the final debate on the Bill and you can find the marshalled list of amendments here.
  • All Cleaned Up Deep Cleaning Service: All Cleaned Up, a social enterprise run by CJVSF member Apex Scotland, is now offering a new, specialist deep clean service for workplaces in response to COVID-19. You can find more information on ACU and the deep cleaning service, including details on how to request a quote, in this flyer.


  • Various dates:  Scottish Drugs Forum is hosting a series of free webinars, as part of its response to the current COVID-19 pandemic.