Greens ‘uncomfortable’ with private firms profiting from justice system

Private companies should not be allowed to profit from the criminal justice system, according to the Scottish Greens.

John Finnie MSP will put forward an amendment to prevent any firm other than public bodies or charities from getting contracts in courts, prisons and the monitoring of criminals.

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John Finnie says expansion of electronic monitoring would put more personal information in the hands of a commercial operator (Danny Lawson/PA)

It comes as Holyrood’s Justice Committee begins the second stage of considering the Management of Offenders Bill.

Mr Finnie said: “Like many, Scottish Greens are extremely uncomfortable with profit being associated with any aspect of our criminal justice system.

“The expansion of electronic monitoring supports proposed by this legislation sees the introduction of new technologies, such as GPS which will improve the effectiveness of electronic monitoring, for example through the use of exclusion or inclusion zones.

“However, it places even more personal information in the hands of the present operator, a commercial company.”

He added: “I note that past SNP manifestos stated: ‘First, we will ensure public services should be just that – public. Government money intended to provide public services must do just that and should not be wasted through inefficiency or be taken out of the system to pay excessive private profit.’

“My proposal would ensure that only the public or third sector would take responsibility for this important public safety issue.”

The Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill seeks to strengthen Scotland’s justice system by creating a new offence of being “unlawfully at large” – giving police powers of arrest and forced entry – and introducing changes to electronic monitoring of offenders.

The bill comes in the wake of the murder of father-of-three Craig McClelland from Paisley by an attacker who had disabled his electronic tag while on a curfew.

Reviews into the killing prompted the Scottish Government to propose a presumption against violent criminals being released on the curfews.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Public and third sector organisations can bid to provide the electronic monitoring service in Scotland and there were public sector bidders the last time that the contract was tendered.

“The Scottish Government see a strong role for the third and public sector as the service develops, particularly around the support offered to those being monitored.

“Almost every jurisdiction in the world that uses electronic monitoring has some private sector involvement in the service and the contractual requirements governing how information is stored and managed remain the same regardless of the provider being public, private or from the third sector.”

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