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Automatic early release for dangerous prisoners scrapped in Scotland

No long-term prisoner in Scotland will in future be eligible for automatic release after two thirds of their sentence.

Alternative: Community service is used instead of a prison sentence in lesser crimes.
© STV

Automatic early release for dangerous prisoners in Scotland has been scrapped, the First Minister has announced.

No long-term prisoner in Scotland will in future be eligible for automatic release after two thirds of their sentence, after Ms Sturgeon announced an end to the current system of automatic early release for all offenders serving more than four years.

The First Minister said the provisions of the Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Bill, currently making its way through parliament, would be tightened to ensure that no prisoners serving time for serious offences would be automatically released on licence after two thirds of their sentence.

For non-sexual offenders, the Bill currently applies only to prisoners sentenced to ten years or more.

Ms Sturgeon also announced that a guaranteed period of supervision would be put in place for prisoners guilty of serious offences.

She said this would be put in place to maintain public safety by promoting the effective rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders coming out of custody into the community.

The announcement follows confirmation by justice secretary Michael Matheson of a radical new approach to offending.

A major part of this was the scrapping of plans for a female prison in Inverclyde and an additional £1.5m for projects designed to stop female offending.

The First Minister said the new dual approach would ensure those who do not require to be in prison access community services, while offenders that should be in jail remain there longer.

She said: "The safety of the public is an absolute priority of this government, and we have made significant progress in recent years, with an additional 1,000 police officers on our streets and recorded crime now at its lowest level in 40 years.

"But we are not complacent, and we recognise that tough action is required to tackle those offenders who commit the most serious crimes, ensuring that communities are kept safe while at the same time making efforts to reduce the likelihood of reoffending.

"Prison remains the most appropriate place for serious offenders, and we had already included proposals in the Prisoners (Control of Release) Bill to end automatic early release for certain categories of prisoner.

"Today I am announcing that we will go much further, ending automatic early release at two-thirds of their sentence for all long-term prisoners in Scotland - which are defined as those sentenced to four years or more.

"That means every prisoner serving a sentence of four years or more will remain in jail for much longer than is currently the case if deemed necessary by the Parole Board.

"As an additional safety measure, I can also confirm today that we will introduce a guaranteed period of supervision for these long term prisoners, to be set out as part of their sentence, which will aid their rehabilitation and help them reintegrate into communities.

"This is a concrete example of the Scottish Government delivering on our justice commitments – indeed, with today’s announcement we are going significantly further in ending automatic early release than our initial legislation had proposed.

"Following our recent announcement on Inverclyde and additional funding to reduce female offending, our justice policy is focused on ensuring that those serious offenders who should be in prison are in prison and when they are released, they have effective supervision. All of this will help protect our communities."

Susan Gallagher, acting chief executive of Victim Support Scotland, said: "For those who live in all of the communities in which we work this should be viewed as a step closer to achieving a system in which sentences are straightforward and understandable to the victim and those communities.

"We also support the guarantee of a period of post-release supervision for prisoners, as we recognise the significant role played by community supervision, not only in facilitating enhanced reintegration into the community, but also in supporting offenders to desist from further offending."

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