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31 July 2006

Minister Will Face Local Farmers Over Funding Support

by Joe Watson, Press & Journal

Scottish Farming Minister Ross Finnie will make an appearance at Turriff Show today.

He will spend almost five hours at the show before going to see local farmers John and Andrew Rennie at Gask, near Turriff.

The father and son have in recent months started generating electricity from pig slurry and abattoir waste.

Their £1.5million project attracted just £25,000 in support from the Scottish Executive's farm business diversification scheme. The level of funding has been criticised by the Rennies, who have seen other renewable energy projects receive massive Government support.

Mr Finnie will spend his time at the show touring the stock lines, presenting prizes and taking in the national Border Leicester sheep show, being held at Turriff for the first time.

He too will visit the Turriff and district business marquee on the showfield and meet Jim Williamson, another local farmer who has diversified into garden machinery, a children's play area and restaurant.

Meanwhile, Stewart Stevenson, the Banff and Buchan MSP, has welcomed an apparent change of heart from Mr Finnie on possible support for new entrants wanting to get a foothold in farming.

The minister had told Mr Stevenson in a letter in March that he was not minded to support such a scheme at that time. New correspondence from the minister, however, indicates that he is now considering whether a bespoke scheme for young entrants would be suitable.

This change stems from the Scottish Executive's recent rural development plan consultation.

Mr Stevenson said: "We all agree that the age profile of those involved in farming is too high and that action is needed to support our young farmers.

"We know that a similar scheme introduced last year in Northern Ireland has been warmly welcomed there and is making a significant contribution to the agricultural industry there.

"I strongly suspect that the minister has been swayed by the weight of argument put forward for lending support to new entrants in the recent consultation on the rural development programme and I very much welcome Mr Finnie's move to open-mindedness on this issue.

"Let us be clear that such a scheme in itself will not transform Scotland's farming industry overnight, but it is one of the very necessary steps needed to build a sustainable agriculture sector for the future."


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for all the farming news click on:


Categories [Environment and Rural Development]

Sex Offenders Probe May Delay Decision On Prison

by Andrew Kellock, Press & Journal

PLANS to hold a fresh round of consultations on how sex offenders should be managed could delay a decision on the future of a north-east prison.

Campaigners in Peterhead had hoped they would know before the end of this year whether or not the Aberdeenshire town will become the base for a new "super jail".

But it may be early 2007 before Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson makes an announcement on the way forward because Scotland's recently-formed criminal justice authorities are being asked for their views.

A Scottish Prison Service spokesman admitted last night a decision was still "months rather than weeks" away.

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson described the news as "disappointing" - and said he feared more delays could push up the estimated £50-£70million bill for building a new jail at Peterhead.

The SPS launched a wide-ranging consultation exercise last summer, and admitted for the first time that a new "super jail" - to replace the dilapidated buildings at both Peterhead and Craiginches in Aberdeen - could be created.

Organisations and individuals gave their feedback on six options.

And 51% of those who responded backed a new building at the existing Peterhead Prison complex at the port's Invernettie.

Another 28% signalled their support for replacing the jail, and possibly Craiginches, on a site elsewhere in Aberdeenshire.

Only 18% were in favour of replacing Peterhead prison with a new one in the central belt.

And just 3% backed refurbishing the Victorian-era prison.

There was no support at all for making operational changes at the jail to allow it to comply with human-rights rules on issues such as slopping out.

Mr Stevenson has asked the justice minister to meet with him and members of Stop the Closure of Peterhead Prison, the warders' wives who won their high-profile battle to save the award-winning sex offenders' unit from the axe.

The MSP said: "More consultations will, inevitably, mean a further delay to the decision on the jail's future.

"This is disappointing and unnecessary.

"Peterhead has established itself as a centre of excellence for the treatment and rehabilitation of sex offenders, and no other community in the country has shown any willingness to take on its role.

"Costs do not stand still, so another delay will also lead to an increase in the bill for delivering the new prison."

Criminal justice authorities (CJAs) are partnerships between councils and other agencies involved in strategies to stop people reoffending.

An SPS spokesman said: "We plan to consult with the CJAs as to what they see as the best options for the management of sex offenders.

"This consultation will be carried out over the next few months"

Peterhead Prison was earmarked for closure by former Justice Minister Jim Wallace following a wide-ranging estates review.

He was forced into a U-turn by campaigners, but they still want a commitment that the jail and the programmes it runs to treat and try to rehabilitate rapists and child molesters and reduce the risk of them reoffending has a long-term future.

The prison holds about 300 of Scotland's worst sex offenders.

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for original story click on:
The Press & Journal Categories [Justice]

28 July 2006

Stevenson Supports Shifting Executive Position On Support For Young Farmers

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed what he sees as a shifting position from the Scottish Executive on support for new entrants into the agriculture sector.

In a letter to Mr Stevenson in March 2006, Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie signalled that he was “not minded to introduce a support scheme for new entrants to the industry at this time”. Now however, in response to further lobbying from Mr Stevenson on the issue, Mr Finnie has responded that he is “considering whether a bespoke scheme for young entrants would be suitable” in light of responses received to the consultation on the Rural Development Programme.

Speaking at Turriff Show today [Sunday], Mr Stevenson commented:

      “This is a very welcome change of emphasis from the Scottish Government. Scotland’s agriculture Minister has moved from a position just four months ago of opposition to giving support to new entrants into farming to now being willing to consider just such a scheme.

      “We all agree that the age profile of those involved in farming is too high and that action is needed to support our young farmers. We know that a similar scheme introduced last year in Northern Ireland has been warmly welcomed there and is making a significant contribution to the agriculture industry there.

      “I strongly suspect that the Minister has been swayed by the weight of argument put forward for lending support to new entrants in the recent consultation on the Rural Development Programme and I very much welcome Mr Finnie’s move to open-mindedness on this issue.

      “Let us be clear that such a scheme in itself will not transform Scotland’s farming industry overnight, but it is one of the very necessary first steps needed to build a sustainable agriculture sector for the future.” Categories [Environment and Rural Development]

City prices land ministers with £2.5m bill for renting property

IAN SWANSON SCOTTISH POLITICAL EDITOR (iswanson@edinburghnews.com)

SOARING city rents have landed the Scottish Executive with a bill of £2.5 million a year for leasing property in Edinburgh.

On top of the office buildings it owns - like St Andrew's House in the city centre and Victoria Quay at Leith - the Executive leases seven properties in the Capital.

But the leasing bill has rocketed from £1,147,912 in 1999-2000, the first year of devolution, to £2,453,739 last year.

More than half of the cash goes to rent an office block which the Government sold off only to lease it back again.

And one of the steepest rises was for another big office building owned by Edinburgh City Council.

Scottish Nationalist MSP Stewart Stevenson, who obtained the information in a written parliamentary answer from Finance Minister Tom McCabe, said he suspected the Executive had too many buildings which it was paying too much for.

The most expensive of all the properties leased by the Executive across Scotland is Pentland House in Robb's Loan, Chesser - headquarters for the Executive's Environment and Rural Affairs Department.

The Pentland House rent has more than doubled from £820,590 to £1,698,457.

The building was at one time part of the government estate, but was sold more than a decade ago to insurance giants Prudential, which leased it back to the Executive until 2017.

Liberal Democrat MSP Donald Gorrie said the policy of selling off property, pursued by the last Tory government, had been short-sighted.

"They all take a short-term view," he said.

"Some minister would get some kudos at the time because he had reduced the number of buildings the Government had, but now we end up with a hefty bill.

"A lot of companies sell on premises and lease them back on the grounds they should be concentrating on their main activity and owning buildings is someone else's business, but unless you have a well-drafted agreement - which our government never would have - you are very much at their mercy."

And Mr Stevenson added: "It seems like a long-term commitment to a very expensive deal and in an environment where the Executive is saying it is trying to cut down on waste and increase efficiency, a deal like this suggests it is not achieving much on property."

Council-owned Saughton House in Edinburgh's Broomhouse Drive is the base for the Executive's personnel division and other internal functions and has seen its rent nearly quadruple from £114,527 in 1999-2000 to £444,731 last year.

Mr Stevenson said: "I congratulate Edinburgh City Council on its perspicacity on behalf of Edinburgh taxpayers, but whether it is such a good deal for the Executive is much more open to question. I'm not convinced it is an efficient use of public money."

Mr Gorrie said the council was there to benefit Edinburgh taxpayers and he was glad to know it drove a hard bargain.

An Executive spokesman said all the properties were subject to a regular rent review and the costs reflected the state of the property market.

The spokesman added: "It's all tied into market value - and we are happy to pay what we should be paying."

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to see original story click on:

Categories [Finance and Public Service Reform]

26 July 2006

Four victims are treated every day for knife wounds

by LOUISE GRAY, Scottish Political Correspondent, The Scotsman

EVERY day in Scotland four people need hospital treatment for knife wounds, according to new figures which reveal the shocking extent of today's blade culture. Police in Scotland admit they face massive problems in controlling knife crime, with thousands of people arrested every year for carrying offensive weapons.

Yesterday, statistics from the NHS in Scotland showed the human side of knife crime - the people in hospital with life-endangering stab wounds or cuts that leave scars.

Doctors and police said the figures are just the tip of the iceberg as many people attending hospital are simply "stitched up" without being recorded and much knife crime continues to go unreported.

The Executive agrees there is a huge problem in Scotland and is bringing in new laws.

Opposition politicians say tougher sentences are needed and more police.

The Information and Statistics Division of NHS Scotland calculated there were 1,414 patients discharged from hospital in 2004-5 having been treated for a wound caused by a "bladed article", of which 1,305 were men and 109 women. The figure equates to almost four people every day.

Scotland is increasingly in the grip of a blade culture. In 2004-5, 72 people were murdered using a sharp instrument and 3,444 offenders were convicted for carrying a knife or other offensive weapon.

Earlier this year the Executive introduced a knife amnesty which allowed people to hand in weapons before strict new measures are brought in.

Stewart Stevenson
, the SNP deputy spokesman on justice, said the figures showed for the first time how the health service was having to deal with the consequence of knife crime.

"Any way we look at it, these are a substantial number of assaults. We are looking at four every day of the year which is indicative of how knife culture is still alive and well in far too much of Scotland," said Mr Stevenson.

"Knife culture is deeply embedded in Scotland's communities and these figures show for the first time the extent of the problem ... but it is clear knife crime is not reported fully to the police."

Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, head of Strathclyde Police's Violence Reduction Unit, was not surprised by the figures.

"Whether hospitals treat 1,400 or 400 victims of knife attacks, it is still far too many and levels of violence are still unacceptable in 21st century Scotland," he said.

The number of people injured by knives rose from 1,328 in 1997/98, to a peak of 1,902 in 2002/03 before reaching the current level.

Dr Alastair Ireland, a consultant in emergency medicine at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary said up to 20 people a week were treated for knife injuries but many were not reported because they were not officially admitted. "There are a number of people who find themselves through no fault of their own confronted by someone with a knife, and are even killed," he said.

Dr Ireland blamed the prevalence of knives on the streets and recommended stricter measures to try and remove them.

"They [the police] really need to crack down on people who carry knives. If you arm yourself you have to suffer the consequences legally, because people are dying."

A spokesman for the Executive said:

"We are absolutely clear that knife crime remains a major problem in Scotland which is why the Executive is doing so much to tackle it. We have too many incidents of knife crime involving young men."

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for original story see: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/ Categories [Health and Community Care] [Justice]

More drug addicts held by police to get offer of treatment

by FRANK URQUHART, The Scotsman

A PIONEERING project that offers drug addicts access to treatment after they are arrested is to be extended, the Scottish Executive said yesterday.

The arrest referral scheme is aimed at allowing addicts to volunteer for treatment to tackle the root cause of their criminal behaviour.

Hugh Henry, the deputy justice minister, said an annual funding package of £1.4 million would allow it to be launched in Aberdeen and rolled out across Glasgow, where it currently operates out of one police station.

The move follows pilots in Glasgow, Renfrewshire, Tayside, Dumfries and Galloway, Lanarkshire and Edinburgh, which will continue until 2008.

Mr Henry said: "For minor offenders, arrest referral offers an early opportunity to turn their lives around - an opportunity to get offenders into treatment earlier and quicker, and thus to reduce their offending.

"Efficient and effective justice is not just about punishing criminals. It is about providing people with routes out of crime. Along with a raft of work including drug treatment and testing orders as a court disposal, arrest referral has the potential to help break the link between drugs and crime and help deliver a safer, stronger Scotland."

Annabel Goldie, the Scottish Tory leader, said: "Any attempt to address the horrific cycle of drug abuse is very welcome. But the stark facts are that the treatment ethos favoured by the Executive focuses on the wrong issues."

Stewart Stevenson
, the SNP's spokesman on drugs, said: "Today's statement by the minister will be meaningless unless there is a substantial investment in new rehab places."

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for original story see: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/ Categories [Justice] [Environment and Rural Development]

25 July 2006

Lib-Lab Exec Must Get Tough on Drug Driving

Commenting on the Illicit Drugs and Driving report by the Labour and Lib Dem Government, SNP Deputy Justice Spokesperson Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

"The failed Labour and Lib Dem administration have clearly taken their eye off the ball on drug driving - they do not even have figures on convictions for drug driving offences.

"With the wide range of drugs used, it is vital that police have appropriate kits to detect drug misuse among drivers. Previous research has shown that illegal drugs were present in nearly one in 5 drivers involved in fatal accidents.

Drug driving is a big problem in Scotland and will get even bigger if this Lib-lab Government doesn't get tough on individuals who commit these offences."

Note:

UK Government research, published in 2000, into the incidence of drugs in fatal road accident victims, found that illegal drugs were present in 18% of the sample group and that medicinal drugs were present in 6%.

The research report TRL495 is available on the TRL website at: http://www.trl.co.uk
Categories [Justice]

Stevenson Demands More Drug Re-Hab Places in North-East

Deputy Justice Minister Hugh Henry visited Aberdeen today to announce plans for more drug offenders to be diverted into treatment. Commenting, the SNP's Drug Spokesperson, MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

"Too many drug abusers have experienced prison without their underlying drug addiction being effectively addressed. The SNP has long advocated specialist drug courts and I therefore welcome any moves to offer re-hab to addicts.

"But the North-East has experienced long waiting lists for drug addiction treatment. Today's statement by the Minister will be meaningless unless there is a substantial investment in new re-hab places. There will be no point just 'parking' more addicts on methadone if rapid progress to re-hab ain't available.

"And addicts who have yet to offend must not be disadvantaged with longer waits simply because offenders are filling the few available places." Categories [Justice]

Stevenson Comments on National Dental Inspection Programme

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has commented on the National Dental Inspection Programme report of primary seven children for 2005 which was produced by the Scottish Dental Epidemiological Coordinating Committee as a result of collaborative work between all Scottish NHS Boards, Scottish Local Authorities and the Dental Health Services Research Unit in Dundee.

Commenting on the report, Mr Stevenson said:

      “Children’s dental wellbeing is of extreme importance and therefore it is necessary that it is assessed and parents are made aware of this and informed about the ways in which they can take the necessary steps to remedy any problems that may arise with their children and their dental hygiene.

      “It is therefore disappointing, but unfortunately no surprise, that Scotland does not compare well with other countries in the UK with Scotland having the highest number of decayed, missing and filled teeth. The majority of dental diseases continues to be borne by children from more deprived backgrounds and this unacceptable poor level of oral health must be addressed.

      “Grampian is well below the Scottish average of 59.2% of primary seven children being free from decay. This may very well be linked to the lack of availability of dental services in the North-east and is why I continue to press for this situation to be addressed. The Scottish Executive set the target that 60% of primary seven children should be free of obvious decay by the year 2010 and the North-east clearly has a long way to go to meet that target.

      “The role of dental care and wellbeing must be given more recognition and we must ensure that all schoolchildren have access to dental provision as a priority.”

Categories [Health and Community Care]

23 July 2006

SNP Call For Retention Of Juvenile Sex Offenders DNA

Following the revelations in today's Sunday Times that three children under the age of ten have been charged with sexual offences, SNP Deputy Justice Spokesperson Stewart Stevenson MSP renewed the call for the retention of DNA evidence from such children.

Mr Stevenson said:

"The figures published today are deeply disturbing. For the first time we have a figure which measures the Labour and Lib Dem government's failure to address such offending by young people. People across Scotland will be shocked that almost 3,000 children under 10 were charged by police in the last year.

"But the charges of rape and other sexual crimes were the most worrying. It is only 2 months since I warned Labour, Lib Dem and Tory MSPs of the dangers of very young sexual predators. But they voted down an amendment to the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill moved by me which would have retained DNA from children like these to enhance future protection from these dangerous youngsters.

"We must stop pretending that crime can be described as 'anti-social behaviour' and support children from our most disadvantaged areas to prevent them becoming serial offenders. But, most of all, we must protect our communities by appropriate measures in relation to youngsters who commit sex crimes."

Note to Editors:

Scottish Parliament debate at Stage 3 of the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, 25th May 2006

Column 26097

Stewart Stevenson: ... ... ... a child can be a sexual predator just as an adult can. A child who is a sexual predator needs to be protected and needs to be looked after within the children's panel system. That is self-evident, but there are victims of children as well. ... ... ... the first time a juvenile sexual offender re offends undetected because the police did not have access to the DNA of that child from the previous offence, the political price for ... (The Executive) ... will be significant and terminal.

Three 'rapists' aged under 10 revealed in police statistics



THREE alleged rapists are among more than 600 Scots children under the age of 10 to have been charged with serious offences in the past year.

Police statistics obtained by The Sunday Times under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that primary school children as young as eight have been accused of crimes including rape, robbery, assault and fraud.

The figures, which have been disclosed for the first time by all eight of Scotland’s police forces, provide an alarming snapshot of the level of violent and sexual crime committed by children under the age of 10.

Almost 3,000 children aged 8-10 were charged between April 2005 and March 2006.

While the vast majority were for relatively minor offences such as vandalism and breach of the peace, the figures expose a hard core of persistent offenders who are responsible for a catalogue of serious crimes.

Among them are three youngsters charged with rape from the Strathclyde, Lothian & Borders and Tayside police force areas. One, a nine-year-old, was accused of raping a three-year-old girl, who used dolls to tell her mother about the alleged attack. If convicted, he would become Scotland’s youngest rapist.

A further 18 children committed lewd and libidinous acts — defined as sexual contact with a person under 16 — and four indecent assaults.

The statistics have outraged politicians and child campaigners. Murdo Fraser, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said the figures were evidence that the executive’s crusade against youth crime was failing. “This is shocking and to suggest that we should raise the age of criminal responsibility would be to brush the whole thing under the carpet and try and pretend there isn’t a serious problem,” he said.

Stewart Stevenson, deputy justice spokesman for the Scottish National party, said: “These figures paint an alarming picture of future offending if we are unable to respond to this effectively now. I don’t think anyone would expect this level of criminality among primary school children.”

Peter Wilson, a spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, said that action was needed to deal with “an increasing number of young children who often appear to be out of control”. “Police officers are seeing more instances where ever-younger children are getting themselves involved in more serious acts,” he said.

In Strathclyde, under-10s were responsible for almost 1,200 offences, including 26 serious assaults, a robbery and reckless conduct with a firearm. A further 25 were found in possession of a weapon, including 14 who were armed with knives. Twenty-four were charged with racially aggravated offences.

In Tayside, police officers recorded almost 900 separate charges relating to about 600 children. Most were for disorder, dishonesty and motoring offences.

Officers in Lothian and Borders recorded 400 offences including 57 minor assaults, three housebreakings and two incidents of children carrying knives at school.

In Grampian, about 280 children, around 80 of whom were aged eight, were charged with crimes. The most common offences recorded were vandalism (116), breach of the peace (88) and assault (87).

Detectives in the Highlands recorded about 140 offences by children aged 8-10, including a lewd and libidinous act by a seven-year-old.

The disclosures follow the case of a 12-year-old girl, from Livingston, West Lothian, who is thought to be Britain’s youngest mother. The girl, who has not been named, became pregnant aged 11 after having sex with a 15-year-old on a drunken night out with friends. He has been charged with statutory rape.

Last month it emerged that an eight-year-old, two nine-year-olds and a 10-year-old were receiving treatment for drug addiction. In February this year an 11-year-old girl was treated for heroin addiction in Glasgow after she collapsed at school.

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see the original story at:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,176-2281986,00.html

Expert's stay out of jail card for sex crimes

by KATE FOSTER CHIEF REPORTER, Scotland on Sunday

SEX offenders should be allowed to avoid jail and attend rehabilitation programmes in the community, an Executive adviser on criminal justice claimed last night.

In a controversial bid to stop reoffending, Bill Whyte said that courts should consider "taking risks" by offering radical alternatives to prison.

Whyte, the director of the Scottish Executive-funded Criminal Justice Social Work Development Centre for Scotland, made the comments amid growing concerns that prison is failing to stop offending.

In 2005, just months after being allowed back into the community after a year's supervision in a centre for vulnerable children, Colyn Evans, by then 15, murdered 16-year-old Karen Dewar. In June last year he was jailed for life.

While a number of psychological programmes exist for sex offenders both in and out of prison, many do not take part - especially those who are serving short sentences of less than 12 months.

Whyte believes a new intensive rehabilitation programme - the Community Sex Offenders Group Work Programme - could prove a viable alternative to custody for those who have committed less serious crimes. It would also help stop the risk of criminals going on to commit increasingly worse offences on release.

The proposal, which was last night given a cautious welcome by politicians, would allow at least 100 sex offenders each year to avoid prison if they attend the course, aimed at teaching them how to control their urges and stop offending.

Those eligible could include offenders found guilty of crimes including indecent assault or exposure, sex with an underage girl or lewd and libidinous behaviour.

Whyte, who is currently evaluating the programme for local authorities, said: "We are using prison a lot, but if it's short term prison there's at least a question - is this the best?

"Clearly this programme is running because judges are deciding to place people on it subject to lengthy supervision. The question would be how sensible is it, if they can be on this programme, to go to prison for three months?

"Prison is for punishment. If that's what people want then fine. But do not pretend that's going to keep people safe.

"For people who connect, the programme is working very well. Our knowledge is getting more sophisticated and that means society needs to be willing to take risks.

"Risk avoidance will actually create problems because what you will do is move into a tick-box bureaucratic system that will have all the boxes ticked, but will the person be helped to change? For most other types of offence there's very little evidence that prison does anything but make people worse, but we still want to send them there.

"The government is investing substantial sums of money in dealing with sex offenders, and there has been a major investment in developing programmes in the community that will link with prisons, but it is all in its early days."

He added: "There are no certainties and people have to take risks. There is a wider context for these programmes in that people have other issues such as employment, relationships and accommodation which need to be taken into account.

"These are the issues that inevitably create tensions. We must not drive these people underground."

Official figures show that 1,133 people were found guilty of sex crimes in Scottish courts last year - a rise of 19% in 12 months. Ten per cent were sentenced to six months or less. Around 100 people are taking part in the sex offenders programme at any one time. It teaches them how to control their urges and change their behaviour.

Last night the Scottish Executive said it was up to sheriffs and judges to impose sentences. A spokeswoman said: "Sentencing is a matter for the courts, taking into account all the circumstances of a case.

"In relation to sex offenders, while these individuals may be small in number, they rightly generate considerable public concern, and we would expect that full consideration of the risk these individuals may pose to be taken into account when deciding on the most appropriate sentence to be given - with public safety remaining the over-riding priority.

"In terms of reducing reoffending, this has been placed at the heart of our criminal justice reforms, and we have set out a clear agenda to ensure progress on this, both in prison, on release and in the community. Accredited programmes for sex offenders have been developed for use in both the community and custodial settings.

"So whichever sentence the court imposes, effective work can be done to address the particular risks this group of offenders pose. We look forward to seeing the results of this evaluation in relation to tackling reoffending once the report has been published."

The SNP's deputy justice spokesman, Stewart Stevenson, said: "I strongly support the use of soundly developed psychological programmes for sex offenders.

"We know that long-term sex offenders who go through them voluntarily do significantly reduce their offending behaviour.

"The difficulty is that coercing people to do programmes does not have a track record of success. We need very careful selection and supervision while in the community.

"We need to be absolutely clear that we can see a real benefit and that the public are adequately protected."

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see original story at:
http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1068702006

21 July 2006

Lib-Lab Exec Must Support Not Undermine Scottish Police Force

Commenting on findings of the Scottish Crime and Victimisation Survey 2004, SNP Deputy Justice Spokesperson Stewart Stevenson MSP said:

"The fact that more than half of crimes go unreported is a sad legacy of this washed-up Labour and Lib Dem Governments failed justice policies.

"We urgently need to rebuild confidence in Scotland's criminal justice system. Laws already exist for action to be taken against criminals but the police need the resources to tackle them and secure convictions. The message is clear, we should be supporting our police officers instead of undermining confidence in the police force as Jack McConnell did last month."

UK database to protect children

by LUCY ADAMS, Home Affairs Correspondent, the Herald, July 21 2006

Sensitive criminal record information and pre-conviction data is to be pooled in a UK-wide database for the first time to try to improve child protection provisions.

The Scottish intelligence database has traditionally been kept by and for Scottish forces. But from September, it will be linked to the new national system in England and Wales, allowing officers to access information on any individual across Britain.

Critics say the move, which follows the inquiry chaired by Sir Michael Bichard into the deaths of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham in 2002, raises questions about civil rights and data protection.

Policing is devolved, as is the legal system and forces in England and Wales work under different rules. They can, for example, hold pre-conviction DNA samples indefinitely. In Scotland such records have to be destroyed, although under the police bill set to become law those concerning certain people such as suspected sex offenders may be held for up to three years. In the past Scottish officers would have to contact colleagues south of the border to ask for intelligence held on an individual.

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland(Acpos) believes pooling data will improve child protection and public safety.

Tom Halpin, deputy chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police and the Acpos spokesman on child protection and sex offenders, said: "We have to recognise Scotland is a separate country but as part of the UK we need to protect all our citizens. It will be costly but it is a system we need."

Mr Halpin added that the police would need to set up strict protocols to regulate access to the information and to decide which information is relevant rather than swamping the system.

The Bichard inquiry was highly critical of the lack of a national database in England and Wales and called for far greater information sharing and IT links. At the time, Scotland was held up as an example of how police forces co-operate.

The new England and Wales database called Impact is currently being rolled out and will include an index on nominals.

However, opposition politicians fear the move could interfere with civil rights.

Stewart Stevenson, the SNP deputy justice spokesman, said: "With the abuse of DNA in the English database there is no guarantee that Scottish data will be protected. We have also seen the difficulties with ID Card technology due to soaring costs and challenges in making it work which suggests that integrating data cross border will be far from easy.

"The SNP would want absolute commitments that heads would roll if there are any problems. Control of Scottish data must remain with Scotland wherever it is stored and processed."

Murdo Fraser, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: "The protection of the public is paramount but we have to recognise that we have a different system under Scots law in terms of confidentiality of records and collation of DNA. This is a good thing but needs to be done sensitively with regard to the differences."

The Home Office, the lead agency on the project, said the new system will be able to access all police data including pre-conviction and post conviction information and DNA.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: "We are working with the Scottish police forces to ensure the systems are compatible. The INI[nominal index] is already being rolled out to child protection units in England and Wales and that is being extended to Scotland by November 2006."

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for the orginal story in the Herald see:
http://www.theherald.co.uk/66350.shtml

20 July 2006

Stevenson Comments On Latest House-Price Figures

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has commented on the latest Scottish House Price Index – Second Quarter 2006 released today by Bank of Scotland.

The figures show that house prices in the Peterhead area recorded the third largest increase in Scotland in the 12 months to June 2006 – 32% - and the fourth largest in the UK.

Commenting on the figures, Mr Stevenson said:

“Obviously, of immediate concern will be the impact that these price rises will have on first-time buyers and their ability to get their feet on the property ladder. That is why the SNP has proposed introducing a first-time buyers' grant of £2000 for every first-time buyer to help with buying their first home.

“The figures locally suggest a buoyant housing market which is indicative of the confidence in the local area and local economy felt by many of these housebuyers.

“However, there is also a severe lack of homes to rent at affordable prices, throughout the North-east. As well as action to assist first-time buyers, we need to take steps to boost the number of homes available at affordable rents.”

MSP Backing Samaritans 24:7

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has lent his backing to the Samaritan’s Campaign: 24:7, taking place on 24 July. The MSP met recently with Samaritans representatives in the Scottish Parliament and appears in the latest Samaritans Scotland brochure.

Commenting on the Awareness Day, Mr Stevenson said:

“It is very important to raise public awareness of the work of Samaritans that goes on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Hopefully the Awareness Day will be a success with success achieved in raising the Samaritans' profile and letting anyone know that Samaritans' services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to everyone that needs emotional support. Additionally, it is vital that funds are raised to help people in distress. Funds help to maintain the emergency lines, recruit and train new volunteers and run projects with schools, colleges, prisons and industry.

“The Awareness Day will bring together volunteers, supporters, celebrities and donors to raise money and spread the message that however your day or night is going – there is support 24:7.

“For those wishing to contact The Samaritans they should contact: www.samaritans.org or call 08457 90 90 90.”

19 July 2006

Airlie Gardens Residents To Get Bus Step

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a response from Aberdeenshire Council that a bus stop is to be provided in Banff’s Low Street to serve the residents of Airlie Gardens Housing Complex.

Mr Stevenson approached Aberdeenshire Council officials following an approach from Airlie Gardens residents asking if a bus stop could be provided near to the complex. The MSP has now received a positive response from the council advising that the work instructions for installation of the bus stops has been issued.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I am pleased for the residents of Airlie Gardens that their request has been granted and should like to thank the council for their prompt response. I was happy to be of assistance in this matter.

“I am sure that this new facility will be of benefit to the residents and other local bus users.”

Funding boost transforming reserves - RSPB

Funding boost transforming reserves

Two of Aberdeenshire's most important wildlife sites are to be transformed into major visitor attractions to benefit local people, tourists and the area's spectacular species thanks to £1 million of grants to RSPB Scotland.

Both RSPB Loch of Strathbeg and Troup Head reserves are undergoing significant upgrades to their facilities to provide inspirational first hand experiences of nature to visitors.

RSPB Loch of Strathbeg is separated from the sea only by sand dunes and supports an abundance of amazing wildlife.

However, pollution from a variety of sources has caused the ecological condition of the water to deteriorate, and the mixed habitats have also degraded over the years.
'This exciting project will give us the opportunity to improve access to two of Scotland's most impressive wildlife spectacles.'

Major habitat restoration and management will be undertaken at Loch of Strathbeg to reverse this historic ecological damage to the mosaic of freshwater loch, marsh, wet grassland and sand dune habitats that establish the reserve's internationally important status for wildlife.

This work will stimulate the recovery of a range of species such as breeding lapwing, redshank and snipe and over wintering pochard, coot and tufted duck. The wetland management will also help develop the reserve as an important resource for mammals such as otter, water vole and water shrew, whilst encouraging potential colonists such as crane, spoonbill and avocet.

For further information about the habitat enhancement project at Loch of Strathbeg, please see the link to the side of this page.

Troup Head, four kilometres of stunning coastline west of Fraserburgh, is RSPB Scotland's newest nature reserve and Scotland's only mainland gannetry with 1,500 nests.

There are currently no visitor facilities at this site. New interpretation and trails will be established to improve access and car-parking facilities will be developed.

As part of the funding package, a new community ranger will be appointed to encourage more people to experience and enjoy the natural heritage of north east Aberdeenshire.

The project will also expand Loch of Strathbeg's field-teaching programme, with the aim of more than doubling the number of children who visit with the site, to become established as a key local resource for environmental education for groups of all ages.

Dominic Funnell, RSPB Scotland's Loch of Strathbeg reserve manager said, 'This exciting project will not only allow us to enhance the internationally important wetland habitats at Strathbeg but will also give us the opportunity to improve access to two of Scotland's most impressive wildlife spectacles. By working with our partners and local communities we will be developing sympathetic wildlife tourism to bring wider economic benefits to the whole area.'

The project also received the support of Stewart Stevenson SNP MSP for Banff and Buchan, who in a letter to the reserve manager welcomed the project measures adding, 'Increasing the existing wildlife will improve the environment and more visitors will benefit the local economy.'

The work, which will take place during 2006 and 2007, has been made possible by several generous grants from organisations: through the European Regional Development Fund, the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Natural Heritage, The Gillman Trusts and the Friends of Strathbeg, a local group which raises funds through bird food sales.
--- --- ---
to read this and other wildlife comment click on:
http://www.rspb.org.uk/scotland/

Local MSP Welcomes End Of Sheep-Tagging Threat

Commenting on the news that continuation of a derogation from the draconion EU measures for sheep tagging has been gained, MSP Stewart Stevenson said:

"Many farmers have previously expressed serious concern about proposals for sheep-tagging. For hill farmers in particular the EU plans would have required unworkable levels of supervision of flocks which are often spread over wide areas of rough grazing

"This derogation is just what we needed to help a sector of our farming community that has been finding it difficult to make a profit in recent years.

"Without it many farmers would undoubtedly given up sheep and our tabletops would have been much the poorer for that."

18 July 2006

Today's Dictionary Special - Cullen Skink

by Paul Gallacher, Press & Journal

Date : 18.07.06
Cullen skink, the renowned north-east fish soup, has made many appearances in recipe books over the years. But its place in the English language is now also truly secure, after becoming an entry for the first time in the Oxford English Dictionary.Some of the world's foremost linguists have decided that the soup, born on the shores of the Moray Firth, is worthy of inclusion in their pages, and Cullen skink is among the hundreds of new additions to the latest online edition.


The definition could even function as a basic recipe, as the noun is described as "a Scottish soup made from smoked haddock, potatoes, onions and milk."'Skink' itself is centuries old but, according to the OED, the Cullen variation is a relatively recent coinage, dating from the 1980s. It derives from the village on the Moray coast, while 'skink', a soup made from shin of beef, probably comes from the Middle Low German word Schinke, meaning ham.

Its new status has been welcomed in a parliamentary motion tabled by Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson, which describes Cullen skink as "a widely recognised and excellent expression of Scotland's fishing and food industries."

Mr Stevenson is currently in Venice and said yesterday he hoped the dictionary would spread the soup's renown.He added that, while there was a variety of recipes, the ingredients as defined formed the basis of what most people would recognise as Cullen skink.

"It is an important and distinctive dish that draws on haddock from our Scottish fishing industry," he said.

"It is, of course, a particularly healthy dish that, if it was more widely eaten, would undoubtedly benefit anyone who did so.

"I'm glad that, even in Oxford, they have come to realise the benefits and attraction of Cullen skink. The dictionary is a good place to start and the Oxford English Dictionary is one of the most authoritative in the world.

"Having Cullen skink added to that dictionary gives new and important status to a very widely recognised and widely consumed local dish."

SNP fisheries spokesman Richard Lochhead, who has Cullen in his Moray constituency, said: "Cullen skink is famous the world over and helps put both Cullen and our fishing industry on the map, so it's good that it's getting even further recognition and the ingredients in the dictionary's definition sound just about right."

Joseph Church, project and communications executive with Seafood Scotland, said: "The more people that know about Cullen skink the better.It's a very traditional Scottish delicacy but a lot of people not from Scotland may not have heard of it, so this is great news."

Cullen skink may be rooted in tradition but it takes its place in the OED at the same time as other very 21st-century additions, such as the verb 'Google', meaning to use the internet search engine to find information, and also 'text', an abbreviated term for sending a mobile phone message.

------
for orginal source go to the Press & Journal at:

http://www.thisisnorthscotland.co.uk

17 July 2006

Home Secretary Threatens To Disqualify Bosses For Hiring Illegal Immigrants

by JAMIE BUCHAN, Press & Journal

08:50 - 17 July 2006

The Home Office came under fire last night after it emerged company directors who employ illegal immigrants could face being struck off as part of a major package of reforms.

Home Secretary John Reid is considering disqualifying bosses whose firms give work to the estimated 570,000 foreigners living illegally in the UK.

Under a "two strikes and you're out" rule, those caught breaking the law after an earlier warning could be struck off.

Mr Reid will this week announce a package of reforms for the Home Office, which he branded "not fit for purpose" when he took over from Charles Clarke in May.

One Scots politician accused the minister of passing the buck last night.

North-east MSP Stewart Stevenson said: "If there is someone who should be brought to task for mismanaging his organisation it is John Reid himself.

"He is the one responsible for the faults in the system and he shouldn't go trying to blame company directors who, in many cases, find it extremely hard to determine the legality of their potential employees."

----
for the full article see the Press & Journal edition of 17th July 2006 at:

http://www.thisisnorthscotland.co.uk

16 July 2006

SNP Warns That Scottish DNA May Be Next To Be Misused

For Immediate Release - Sunday 16 July

ATTN: NEWS DESKS, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENTS

The SNP's Depute Justice Spokesperson, MSP Stewart Stevenson responded to alarming reports in today's Observer that DNA and personal information obtained from the criminal justi.ce system in England is being used for commercial purposes.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said;

"DNA analysis is one of the most powerful tools available to the criminal justice system. But when DNA data are collected from innocent people, particular care must be taken in its use. Protecting the privacy of the individuals concerned must be paramount

"By any standard the unfettered disclosure of criminal justice DNA by commercial firm LGC is entirely unacceptable.

"This practice in England confirms that the SNP were absolutely correct to oppose the retention of DNA collected from innocent parties from police investigations in Scotland.

"The Scottish Government must confirm that our data are not going to be similarly abused."

SNP Condemn Postcode Lottery For Justice

For Immediate Release - Sunday 16 July

ATTN: NEWS DESKS, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENTS

SNP Depute Justice Spokesperson, Stewart Stevenson MSP, today (Sunday) responded to figures released to the Sunday Times regarding clear up rates for police forces in Scotland.

Mr Stevenson said:
"It is clear to see that the clear up rates differ in extremes depending
on the differing forces in Scotland.  For violent crimes, Central police have a 95 % clear up rate whereas Strathclyde have cleared only 48%.

"This postcode lottery for justice is unacceptable and is another example
of the Labour-Liberal crime policy in meltdown.

"An SNP-led government will build confidence in Scotland's law-enforcement system by supporting police chiefs', not bullying them into using ill-thought out legislation which seeks headlines rather than results."

12 July 2006

Stevenson On Increases In Sentencing

The Scottish government today published figures showing that had been successful in getting 19 sentences increased on appeal. Commenting, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson, who is Shadow Deputy Justice Minister, said:

"Confidence in the criminal justice system depends on catching criminals, convicting them and imposing appropriate sentences.

"While it is good to see some progress in sentencing practice, this government is still not providing enough support to police and prosecutors.

"The government must listen to the police when they point to the limitations of Labour's flagship policies such as ASBOs. Instead money should be invested in core services such as police on the beat.

"Too many serious offences such as rape and drug trafficking lead to very few convictions. A government that trumpets 19 increases in sentence instead of addressing their larger failures in criminal justice is a government in trouble."

Stevenson Responds To NHS Grampian Formal Consultation

12 July 2006

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Use

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has submitted his response to the NHS Grampian formal consultation on older people services, diagnostic and treatment services and maternity services.

Commenting on the three issues, Mr Stevenson said:

In terms of older people services

                “With the expected change to the age make-up of the population, it is inevitable that the way in which health services are delivered needs to be examined closely with changes made.  I am all in favour of community based support as opposed to long stay hospital.  Of course with the closure of any hospital it is disappointing news however, I welcome whole heartedly the proposal to build a new hospital and health centre in Banff.”

In terms of diagnostic and treatment services

                “As an MSP, when hearing from constituents one of the things that crops up constantly is the sheer hassle and cost of having to travel to Aberdeen to receive medical treatment.  The concern of these constituents is that they believe that minor surgery and other services should be provided by their local hospitals – a viewpoint that I am in agreement with.  In my eyes, community hospitals are a great idea and I am all for an increase to the range of services that can be made available.”

In terms of maternity services

                “Maternity services are vital to any community and it is fundamental that parents know that they have easy and quick access to support whenever they need it most. I therefore welcome the recommendations to put in place more antenatal and postnatal care across Aberdeenshire.  As we know, the number of home births is rising and it is therefore essential that changes are made to the way that maternity services are delivered. An increase to the public health programme for mothers is also another welcomed recommendation.

                “The broader question of maternity units across the North East raises bigger issues. The unit on Skye is successful at maintaining professional competence and meeting local needs despite numbers much lower than any of Banff, Fraserburgh or Peterhead. So clearly small units can be medically safe and successful.

                “The Fraserburgh situation is particularly concerning. I simply do not accept that medical provision in this large community is in line with the principles laid down in the Kerr report and would be astonished if the Health Minister were not to agree with me in that regard.  The removal of on-site medical cover over-night has inflamed local opinion, and created risk.  I strongly suggest that a trial placement of an out of hours GP be undertaken. I expect that to prove the value of a full time appointment thereafter.

                “The bottom line is that removal of further services is unacceptable and potentially unsafe and I shall be watching future developments with considerable interest and stand by to engage with the Minister as and when necessary.”

Stevenson Welcomes New Helpline For Lone Parents In Scotland

12 July 2006

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Use

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a new helpline, launched by OnePlus1, offering information and advice for lone parents in Scotland.

A team of trained advisers, many of whom are lone parents themselves, will be ready to advise on a range of issues, such as Benefits, Childcare, Education/Training, Money, Holidays, Maintenance, Legal Rights, Work and Housing.  The Freephone Lone Parent Helpline Number is 0808 801 0323. 

Speaking of the new helpline, Mr Stevenson said: 

                “I am pleased that this new helpline has been launched by OnePlus1 to provide lone parents with a direct means of getting both advice and support. 

                “The difficulties encountered in being a lone parent are too often overlooked and I hope that this new scheme will encourage people to seek advice when it is most needed.

                “Many of the advisors who will be offering assistance on this new helpline are themselves lone parents and are best placed to give support when necessary.  I hope that this scheme will flourish and aid those who need it most.

                “This service is available from 9.30am-4.30pm Monday to Friday with a late service operating on Wednesday’s till 8pm.  Hopefully it will be a big success.” 

11 July 2006

Meetings between offenders and victims could cut crime

by MICHAEL HOWIE, The Scotsman

YOUNG offenders who meet their victims are less likely to reoffend than those who have no contact, according to a new report that suggests the tactic could be a key to reducing crime in Scotland.

The Scotsman has learned that an evaluation of a youth restorative justice programme, run by the charity Safeguarding Communities - Reducing Reoffending (SACRO), has found repeat offending was markedly reduced in those who were forced to face up to their actions.

In the SACRO project, nearly 200 children in Aberdeen who had offended were "tracked" for a year to study the impact of meeting victims on their behaviour. About 80 were first offenders and, of those, 86 per cent did not reoffend in the 12 months after working with SACRO. Previous studies have found that the equivalent figure for children who do not take part in restorative justice schemes is between 65-70 per cent.

Meanwhile, authorities saw a 10 per cent reduction in crime among 20 hardcore offenders - responsible for a total of 383 crimes each - who took part in the project.

One in four victims and one in five offenders were prepared to engage with the scheme, when approached.

SACRO said offenders were made aware of the consequences of their crime, while young people were less likely to be "demonised".

The report said: "The findings ... show that people tend to get a lot out of these experiences, and it seems that the negative human consequences are reduced and action, which may be senseless, can be resolved."

News of the study may provide some relief to the justice minister, Cathy Jamieson, on the day that figures are published showing the Scottish Executive has failed to meet its target on youth crime.

A report from the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA) will today confirm that ministers have failed to achieve their target of a 10 per cent reduction in the number of persistent young offenders by April this year.

It is expected that Ms Jamieson will respond to the figures by further criticising councils and police forces who she believes are failing to make full use of new powers to tackle anti-social behaviour.

Billy Nicol, SACRO's youth justice advisor, said the report showed that reoffending rates could be reduced further if more victims and offenders were prepared to engage in the schemes. He added: "I think this report suggests that restorative justice could be used for more serious cases."

The Executive's target on persistent offending was set in 2002 and since then ministers have introduced a range of new measures, including dispersal orders to crack down on gangs and anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) for under-16s, to meet the challenge.

Ms Jamieson last month blamed some local authorities for a "disappointing" lack of progress, and announced a youth justice delivery team had been set up.

SCRA figures for the third-quarter of 2005-6 showed an increase in the number of persistent young offenders referred to the children's reporter of 11 from 207 for the corresponding period in 2004-5.

The Executive provided local authorities with £1.5 million last year to fund 4,000 places on restorative justice schemes.

The SNP last night welcomed the findings of the report and called on ministers to ensure long-term funding for such schemes.

The party's deputy justice spokesman, Stewart Stevenson, said: "I'm very pleased that the Aberdeen project has been working well, although we have to be cautious with early trials. We support the use of restorative justice schemes, which have been successful elsewhere in the world."

An Executive spokeswoman said: "We are encouraged by the success of the Aberdeen project, and will continue to work to develop a clear evidence base on which to base future decisions."

Executive Fails On Young Offenders

The Children's Reporters have today issued figures showing large increases in the number of young offenders being referred to them

The Justice Minister, Cathy Jamieson, had previously set a target of a ten percent reduction in persistent young offenders. Commenting today, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson, who is Shadow Deputy Minister commented:

"This is a sad indictment of a failing Executive. They must stop putting the blame on other agencies and recognise that they have ultimate authority.

"They are in charge, they set the policy and it is them that under fund and under resource necessary and vital organisations.

"The Executive must concentrate not simply on locking up young offenders, but on tackling the scourge of drinks, drugs and deprivation that scar our Scottish communities and blight a huge part of a generation."

9 July 2006

Labour-LibDem Exec’s Crime Policy In Meltdown

For immediate release: Sunday 9th July 2006

Attn: NEWSDESKS
POLITICAL CORRESPONDENTS

LABOUR-LIBDEM EXEC’S CRIME POLICY IN MELTDOWN

ADDICT’S CHILDREN PLAN IS DESPERATE & UNWORKABLE

The Labour-LibDem Executive’s policies in the fight against crime are in meltdown says SNP Shadow deputy Minister for Justice, Stewart Stevenson MSP, after another senior policeman criticised their over-emphasis on using Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs).

Chief superintendent John Pollock, of Strathclyde Police has joined Chief Constable David Strang of Dumfries and Galloway in criticising the Executive’s use of ASBOs as a magic solution to fighting crime.

In a related development Mr Stevenson has also described Labour plans to make drug addicts sign contracts that they would not have children until they had kicked their habit, or lose any benefits they claim, as “unworkable” and “a sign of desperation” as their crime policy has gone into meltdown.

Commenting Mr Stevenson said:

“Chief Superintendent Pollock has exposed how the Executive’s crime policy is in meltdown. Their efforts are increasingly desperate as they resort to gimmicks and headline grabbing to offset what the police and public really know what is happening on our streets.

“They have failed to develop any underlying policies or provide the resources that will really tackle crime. We need to be investing more in police and policing than on gimmicks that massage the figures.

“By using ASBOs to keep the statistics down they are sending out the wrong message. It is much like Blair’s Respect Agenda which describes throwing a brick through someone’s window as ‘disrespectful’ and ‘inconsiderate’. It is a crime and downplaying it as anti-social sends out mixed messages.

“Their headline grabbing proposal to make drug addicts sign a contract not to have children or lose their benefits is just part of that meltdown in their crime policy. It is not only desperate but unworkable.

“It will drive addicts out the system and create greater problems. Addicts live chaotic lives and would be likely to sign anything if they thought it would get them the help they wish for.

“Since the numbers involved would also be small in comparison to the population it is yet another example of headline grabbing spin that fails to address the wider criminal behaviour going on in society.”

ENDS

8 July 2006

Senior policeman hits back at ministers over ASBO use

by MICHAEL HOWIE - The Scotsman

ONE of Scotland's most senior police officers has hit back at ministers over the use of new powers to tackle antisocial behaviour, insisting they are not a panacea in fighting youth crime.

Dumfries and Galloway chief constable and ACPOS youth justice spokesman David Strang also says there is a "disproportionate fear" of young people.

In what appeared to be a thinly-veiled criticism of recent comments by the First Minister Jack McConnell, Mr Strang said powers such as ASBOs for unruly children should not be used as a measure of success against tackling youth offending.

Mr McConnell and the Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson have been consistently critical of councils and police for not using measures such as ASBOs and dispersal orders.

Last month Mr McConnell accused authorities of an "inexcusable" failure to make full use of powers for tacking anti-social behaviour. He expressed "absolute dismay" that many were not using powers such as dispersal orders - which he said they had been pleading for - when "far too many" young people were still showing incorrigible behaviour.

Mr McConnell spoke out after it emerged that only half of Scotland's eight police forces have imposed dispersal orders for breaking up unruly crowds. Only four ASBOs were served on children in the year since the power was introduced in April 2005. But in an interview with The Scotsman, Mr Strang defended police and local authority efforts to tackle youth crime.

He insisted the "real answer" was not to deliver more ASBOs but to tackle a loss of trust between young people and the wider community by reaching out to youngsters.

He said: "The notion that we want to be taking out antisocial behaviour orders on lots of people is, I think, either a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation.

"I have sympathy with the view that the number of ASBOs you take out cannot be a measure of success. If you are not taking out any ASBOs, that could mean that you are dealing effectively with the problem."

Mr Strang agreed that tough measures were needed against the most unruly children, including locking the very worst offenders up in secure accommodation.

But he added: "The real answer is investing in young people's lives at a much earlier stage. By the time they are taking drugs, drinking - at the age of 13 or 14 - it is almost too late.

"Every local authority and police force knows how important it is to tackle antisocial behaviour, but we are realistic. Part of young people growing up is hanging about together. The message we need to get over to older people is that they don't need to be frightened."

Last night the SNP said Mr McConnell should heed the words of senior police officers more closely.

Stewart Stevenson, the SNP's deputy justice spokesman, said: "David Strang's comments accords with what police up and down Scotland are saying. What may be necessary in Lanarkshire is not necessarily what police on the ground in the rest of the country determine is right."

A Scottish Executive spokesman said: "We are not in the business of setting specific targets but we do expect all of the various measures provided through the Anti-Social Behaviour Act to be used where appropriate to tackle local problems."

This article:
http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=995562006

7 July 2006

Amnesty nets thousands of knives

from the BBC

More than 12,000 knives and other weapons have been handed in to police forces across Scotland during a five-week amnesty.

The UK-wide campaign ended at midnight on Friday 30 June.

Among the 12,645 weapons put in 220 bins in police stations across Scotland were machetes, swords, meat cleavers, bayonets and axes.

Police welcomed the result but said the amnesty was only the first stage of a year-long anti-violence campaign.

A break-down of the figures revealed that domestic knives accounted for the vast majority of weapons at 7,403.

There were also 2,982 domestic knives handed in, 474 swords, and 1,784 under the 'other' category.

Det Ch Insp John Carnochan, head of the Violence Reduction Unit, said the number of weapons surrendered was irrelevant.

"We never set any targets for the amnesty, so it didn't matter whether we got 12 or 12,000 weapons, it all helps to make the streets of Scotland safer," he said.

But he warned: "A weapons surrender alone will not solve this deep-rooted problem, however it is part of the 'contain and manage' element of our long-term violence reduction strategy."

Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said those who had ignored the amnesty would now be targeted.

"The message is clear - the police will be continuing to step up their enforcement efforts and have now entered their 'Shop a Knife Carrier' phase of the campaign," she said.

"This is supported by the Lord Advocate's changes to prosecution policy to clamp down harder on those who persistently carry knives, and the new measures in the police bill which will come into force in September."

Last week the Lord Advocate Colin Boyd warned that anyone caught with a knife would be held in custody automatically prior to a court appearance.

It is hoped the campaign will have a similar result to a knife amnesty thirteen years ago which saw murder rates drop by more than a quarter.

The first batch of weapons collected is to be turned into scrap at a metal merchants near Glasgow on Tuesday.

The Scottish National Party welcomed the success of the amnesty but said tougher prison sentences and enforcement of knife laws were needed to tackle knife crime.

Stewart Stevenson MSP said: "An amnesty alone will not eradicate the knife culture which is plaguing Scotland's streets.

"We must make people know that carrying knives is not worth the risk.

Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell welcomed the amnesty results and the Lord Advocate's tougher stance on knife crime.

She added: "I hope that the Labour / LibDem executive will now wake up to the public's other demands that would make Scotland a safer place: complete honesty in sentencing and more police in our communities to deter crime and catch criminals."

Story from BBC NEWS:


http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/scotland/5144004.stm

Stevenson Backs Parliamentary Call On Genetic Testing Waiting Times

7 July 2006

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Use

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has backed a Parliamentary call for reduced waiting times for receiving the results of genetic tests.

Mr Stevenson’s colleague, Moray MSP Richard Lochhead has tabled a Motion in Parliament on the subject.

Commenting on the issue Mr Stevenson said:

      “I thoroughly welcome the report by Breakthrough Breast Cancer, “Testing Times - Waiting for Genetic Test Results” and recognise that there are 3,600 diagnosed cases of breast cancer every year in Scotland, with 180 women developing breast cancer as a result of an inherited DNA defect. However, I am most regretful of the wholly unacceptable current situation where women are forced to wait for up to three years for genetic test results.

      “Furthermore, it is disappointing to learn that current procedures mean that those waiting for life-altering test results are not kept up to date with progress. Nevertheless, I am fully supportive of the aims of the report to reduce waiting times for test results to between two and eight weeks, and I call upon the NHS boards to meet the targets set out in the report.”

-ends-

MSP Comments On St Drostran's Care Home

7 July 2006

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Use

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson attended the public meeting in Mintlaw where local residents turned out in force to express their concern at Aberdeenshire Council’s plan to close St Drostan’s care home.

During the meeting, Mr Stevenson said that the issue had been characterised by a lack of communication from the council to the local community on its plans and council officials agreed to address this.

Commenting after the meeting, Mr Stevenson said:

      “Any decision must allow rural people to stay in rural areas if that’s their wish and not to be forced to move to a large town.

      “It’s clear that communication with the community has been inadequate and it’s now up to the council to lay the facts before the community so that they can make an assessment of any options that they wish to consider.

      “Clearly, the residents of St Drostans are the ones who will be most affected by any change, any move and their wishes must be absolutely paramount in decisions that are going to be made.”

-ends-

6 July 2006

Stevenson Backs National Transplant Week

5 July 2006

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Use

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has lent his backing to National Transplant Week, taking place from 9th – 15th July.

Commenting on the awareness week, Mr Stevenson said:

“I applaud this awareness week which will see campaigning to educate and inform front line medical staff and increase public awareness of the positive benefits of Organ and Tissue Donation for transplantation. Now in its 16th year, the campaign is highlighting that today more than 5,500 people in the UK are waiting for an organ transplant that could save or dramatically improve their life.

”Most are waiting for a kidney, others for a heart, lung or liver transplant. But less than 3,000 transplants are carried out each year. There is a desperate need for more donors. Last year nearly 400 people died while waiting for a transplant. One in ten people waiting for a heart transplant will die and many others will lose their lives before they even get on to the waiting list.

”Transplants are one of the most miraculous achievements of modern medicine. But they depend entirely on the generosity of donors and their families who are willing to make this life-saving gift to others. The more people who pledge to donate their organs after their death, the more people stand to benefit. By choosing to join the NHS Organ Donor Register you could help make sure life goes on.

“For those wishing to apply to the NHS Donor Register they should ring the Organ Donor Line on 0845 60 60 400 between 7am and 11pm seven days a week. Calls are charged at the local rate.”

-ends-

Help tackle drugs now warns MSP

from the Buchan Observer - 3rd July 2006
BUCHAN is facing a serious drugs problem unless money is invested to tackle the issue, according to MSP Stewart Stevenson.
The area now has more than 800 heroin users alone, sparking fears from the local member that the area is facing a serious and increasing drug problem.
He is disappointed that the area has yet to see any investment from the assets seized from organised crime and has warned that the Scottish Executive needs to be more pro-active in tackling the drug issue in the area.
He told the Buchan Observer: "We have a serious drug problem which would benefit from some investment. It isn't much worse than other areas but if we are seizing the assets of drug barons then that money should be thrust back into the area to try and tackle the drugs misuse problems.
"Most of the money seized so far has been invested in the central belt, which does have a very serious drug problem. However, Buchan will end up the same way if we are not pro-active in our approach to tackle the problem."
Almost £50 million worth of drugs have been recovered in Scotland in the past year - yet none of the money seized from organised crime will be reinvested in Buchan.
And it could be more than a year before Buchan see any return from the assets of organised crime retrieved in the area.
The Scottish Executive has selected 14 communities which will be regenerated with money from organised crime.
However, no money is being invested in Buchan, despite Fraserburgh and Peterhead's well-documented drug problems.
Grampian Police recorded over 500 incidents of drug dealing or intent to supply Class 'A' drugs in 2005-06.
But the Scottish Executive has decided to invest the money in communities around the central belt which they say have been hit hardest.
A report published this week by the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency revealed that in the past 12 months it has recovered £22.3 million worth of Class 'A' drugs and £25.4 million worth of Class 'C' drugs.
The biggest seizure in the North-east of Scotland was £500,000 worth of cannabis which resulted in nine arrests last year.
Graeme Pearson, director of the Scottish Drugs Enforcement Agency, says that organised crime poses "the single biggest threat to the stability and prosperity of Scotland's communities".
He added: "There is no doubt that POCA (The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002) has greatly enhanced the Scottish Executive's ability to repatriate recovered criminal assets, thereby visibly strengthening and repairing those communities hardest hit by drug dealing and violent crime."
A Justice spokesperson for the Executive confirmed that no money would be spent in Buchan this year, but insisted that there may be money available in future years.
She justified the way the money is spent, adding: "Following careful consideration, Ministers decided to invest POCA funds for this year in the six areas hardest hit by serious, violent crime - often a reflection of drugs turf wars and the desperate social side-effects of the drugs trade.
"Those areas were identified by using the All Scotland Average per 10,000 population for serious violent crime over a three year period.
"In terms of the future, we have made clear that where there is a particularly large seizure, in excess of £500,000, arrangements will be put in place to enable reinvestment in specific communities where the individual has strong links - the main area of their criminality.
"Again the reinvestment will be in the area affected by the crime rather than the police force area where the individual is caught."
The 'Drug Dealers Don't Care' initiative run by the Scottish Executive last year is the only return Buchan has seen from the proceeds of organised crime.

4 July 2006

Knives Amnesty Alone Won't Eradicate Scotland's Knifeculture

For immediate release: Tuesday 4th July 2006

Attn: NEWS DESKS
POLITICAL/JUSTICE CORRESPONDENTS

KNIVE AMNESTY ALONE WON'T ERADICATE SCOTLAND'S KNIFE CULTURE

Commenting on the end of the knife amnesty, SNP Deputy Justice Spokesperson Stewart Stevenson MSP today (Tuesday) said:

"We welcome the success of the amnesty however an amnesty alone will not eradicate the knife culture which is plaguing Scotland's streets.

"Recent figures have shown that the number of under-18s being convicted of carrying knives has more than doubled in last decade which is extremely worrying.

"The scourge of knife crime has blighted Scotland for too long, and will only be tackled when the courts impose tough sentences and the law on selling knives to those underage is enforced. We must make people know that carrying knives is not worth the risk."

ENDS.


1 July 2006

Prison suicide rate tops 100 in the past decade

Sat 1 Jul 2006

by MICHAEL HOWIE, The Scotsman


MORE than 100 suicides have occurred in Scottish prisons in the last ten years, new figures show.

In an answer to a parliamentary question by SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson, Tony Cameron, the chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), revealed that 153 suicides have occurred since 1992/93 and 115 since 1996/97.

Scotland's dedicated women's prison, Cornton Vale, was hit by a spate of suicides in the late 1990s, when such incidents hit a peak of 17 per year.

Eleven women killed themselves between 1997 and 2002.

Since then, initiatives have been introduced, such as allowing children to stay with their mothers in jail and the creation of a sensory room, which has successfully reduced the suicide rate. But the suicide rate across Scotland's prisons has stubbornly remained at around ten-a-year, prompting calls to improve the way prisons deal with the most vulnerable inmates.

Mr Stevenson, the SNP's deputy justice spokesman, said: "I'm pleased to see continuing success in overcoming the previous history of suicides at Cornton Vale, but obviously in the rest of the prison service there's scope for further improvement.

"I hope the prison service looks at the measures that have been taken in the women's section and take those into the men's," Mr Stevenson added.

A spokesman for the SPS said: "One suicide is one too many and we take extensive measures to reduce the risk.

"We have a policy in place called Act to Care and we always carry out risk assessments on prisoners when they come into prison."

This article: http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=958492006

Last updated: 01-Jul-06 01:08 BST

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