25th November 2014

The 45th Annual SASO conference took place at the Dunblane Hydro Hotel on the 14th-15th November, 2014.  Karen Wright, MSc Criminology and Criminal Justice student at the University of Glasgow, was in attendance for the first time, here is a review of the conference from Karen.

‘I was slightly apprehensive prior to attending the annual conference of the Scottish Association for the Study of Offending (SASO) at Dunblane Hydro Hotel on the 14th -15th November, as it was my first time at an event of this kind; however my initial concerns soon dissipated with the engaging and thought-provoking keynote speakers who addressed delegates over the course of the conference. The topic this year was ‘Crime, Justice and Community’, and speakers tackled this theme from a wide range of backgrounds and approaches.

Chaired by The Hon Lady Rae, the conference kicked off in style with Sir Harry Burns engaging the audience from the start with the question ‘Is crime health an issue?’ He discussed the misleading portrayal of Scotland as the ‘sick man of Europe’ and focused on the psycho-social problems faced by our communities. Professor Mike Nellis from the Centre for Law, Crime and Justice followed with an interesting discussion regarding the concept and meaning of ‘community justice’, outlining the success of the Liverpool Community Justice Centre. The last presentation on the first day was provided by Justina Murray, Chief Officer of the South West Scotland Community Justice Authority. Justina outlined the background to, and future plans for, Community Justice Authorities in Scotland, and the very successful work that has been undertaken involving conversations about justice with local communities.

Saturday dawned with an intriguing presentation from Hans Dominicus from the Belgian Ministry of Justice, who outlined the development of Houses of Justice over the last couple of decades. This proved a fascinating insight into Belgium’s approach to community justice and Hans described the strengths and weaknesses of the system and the challenges faced by the Directorate-General. Hans was followed by Andrew Bruce, Deputy Director for Community Justice who outlined the aims of the Scottish Government in reducing re-offending and reducing prison numbers, and challenges including limitations of policy and changing public attitudes. The final speaker of the morning session was Christine Scullion, Head of Development at The Robertson Trust. Christine described the process in which the Trust takes an evidence-based approach to reducing re-offending, working with Third Sector partners via the Public Social Partnership model. A Practitioners’ Panel followed, offering an insight into the practical issues facing partners involved in Community Justice and Sheriff Lindsay Wood’s account of the Drug Courts in Glasgow was most compelling.

Lunch was followed by an interactive session, where delegates were divided into teams and given the opportunity to act as prosecutors, discussing a number of case studies and making quick decisions based on the evidence before them. Last but certainly no means least, The Rt Hon Henry McLeish concluded the conference with a discussion about Justice after the Referendum. Overall, I found the conference most interesting and I was enthused to meet so many people with a genuine interest in reducing the rates of re-offending, and undertaking a wide variety of positive work to improve justice in the community.’

For more information on SASO, please click here