New law to protect vulnerable people

Women, children and victims of crime are to be the main
beneficiaries of radical new legislation, according to the Scottish
executive, writes Reg McKay.

Introducing the proposed legislation Jim Wallace, minister for
justice, said: “The Criminal Justice Bill delivers on our
commitment to introduce comprehensive legislation to enhance public
safety for all and particularly protect the more vulnerable in
society such as women and children.”

The major proposals include a total ban on smacking children
under the age of three years, and on hitting any child of any age
with an implement. Though this proposal has already caused
controversy and opposition from the powerful lobby group, the
Parent Teachers’ Association, against the creation of
unnecessary legislation, the executive has decided to forge

Wallace said: “Let me be clear, we will not be creating a new
offence. We will not be introducing new penalties. If the physical
punishment of a child is deemed to be excessive by a court of law
then it is assault. That will not change. Ordinary parents need not
fear being criminalised.”

Other major proposals of the bill include more than doubling
maximum sentences to those convicted of possession of child
pornography. Protecting the victims of stalking by creating a
non-harassment order with heavy and immediate penalties where the
order is breached.

A package of measures addressing high risk offenders such as sex
offenders including the introduction of an order for lifelong
restriction, and the creation of a national risk management
authority to improve the protection of the public. Electronic
tagging will also be extended to a wider range of offenders.

Victims’ rights are to be extended with new legislation to
introduce a victims’ statement scheme. This is intended to
run on a pilot basis to start with, and will allow victims the
right to make a statement during the sentencing process of an
individual convicted of an offence against them.

A new interim anti-social behaviour order is to be introduced to
provide more immediate protection from unacceptable behaviour.
Strengthened criminal records checks are to be introduced for all
those working with children and vulnerable adults.

The criminal Justice bill is expected to become law early in



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