Doing bill justice

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I want to correct some factual errors made by Michael Kelly (“Flawed elements of new Criminal Justice Bill”, Perspective, 9 ­January).

Firstly, the bill does not propose giving police greater powers of arrest. Rather, it simplifies and modernises the law, which is currently very complex.

A new statutory power of ­arrest on suspicion of having committed a crime will, therefore, replace the current complicated landscape of statutory and common law powers.

Importantly though, a police officer can arrest a person only if there is a reasonable suspicion of them having committed an ­offence.

For offences not punishable by imprisonment, the police must also be satisfied that arrest is necessary in the interests of justice, for example to avoid interference with witnesses or the continuation of the offence.

There are also no proposals in the bill on the right to anonymity for those accused of a crime. This was raised earlier this week by MSPs at the justice committee and I agreed to look at the issue but there are no firm plans.

I hope this clarifies the position. The Criminal Justice Bill is a vitally important piece of legislation which will make our justice system fit for the 21st century.

Kenny MacAskill MSP

Cabinet Secretary for Justice