• STV
  • MySTV

Criminal Justice Bill faces a rough ride through Holyrood

MSPs reject plans to stop short jail sentences, while Labour calls for mandatory prison terms to be handed to knife criminals.

Criminal Justice Bill faces a rough ride through Holyrood

MSPs have rejected plans which would imposed a presumption against prison sentences shorter than six months.

Members of Holyrood's Justice Committee questioned claims that the move would affect offending rates. However, they backed the general principles of the bill, meaning it can now proceed through parliament.

A Committee report released on Thursday highlights evidence that short prison sentences can deter criminals from reoffending, sometimes in cases where community sentences have failed to change their behaviour.

It added: "They (MSPs) also question the assumption that short-term sentences are currently given out where better alternatives exist and hence doubt that a statutory presumption will make any real difference."

The bill suggests judges should not impose a prison sentence of under six months unless there is no other available option. They would then be required to outline the justification for handing down a custodial term.

The proposal was rejected by Labour and the Tories and supported by the Nationalists and the Lib Dems, before finally being rejected on the casting vote of convener Bill Aitken.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill welcomed the general support for the bill but said he still believed presumption was the right thing.

He said: "Sentences of six months or less are not working. They do nothing to stop offending behaviour, and the report itself acknowledges that short sentences have limited effect as a deterrent.

"It is clear that more and more people are agreeing with the Scottish Government's position and we will continue to work to build on that growing consensus as the Bill progresses through the parliamentary process."

However, opponents called on Mr MacAskill to drop the proposals before the bill progresses to the chamber.

Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker said: "The SNP need to completely rethink their approach. This is another disaster of Mr MacAskill's making. If Mr MacAskill does not change his mind after this report then Labour will fight these proposals."

Lib Dem Committee Member Robert Brown, who voted in favour of the plan, said he would prefer to see the presumption policy applied to sentences under three months.

Although the bill will pass to Parliament, MSPs questioned whether plans to create a sentencing council to guide judges could be justified in the current financial climate.

The move would cost around £450,000 to create and would have annual running costs of £1 million. The council's chief executive would be paid £97,000 a year.

The committee also called for further explanation about plans to remove a rule which excuses people from giving evidence against their spouse, saying it could leave husbands and wives facing contempt of court charges.

And Labour has revealed it will table an amendment to make jail sentences mandatory for knife criminals when the bill comes before Holyrood.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check. That e-mail's already in our system. Please try again.
ShowHide
Forgot password?
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long. Did you enter your details correctly?
If you've forgotten your details then use the 'Forgot password?' link.
Need to reset your password?

We'll send a link to reset your password to

We've sent you details on how to reset your password

Please check your email and follow the instructions.

Forgotten your email address?

Have you forgotten the email address that you previously joined with? Don't worry, by emailing enquiries@stv.tv we can help.

One account. All of STV.

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This must be at least 6 characters long.
ShowHide
This field is required. This must be at least 6 characters long.
You must be over 16 to join STV.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date
We need this to check that you live in an STV region.
This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid postcode
Would you like us to email you about our great shows and services from time to time?
We'll only send emails we think you'll like (see example) based on information you have supplied and shows you have watched on STV Player. For details on emails and advertising, see our STV & You page.
Would you like to receive emails from the Scottish Children's Lottery about draws, instant games and competitions?
We support the Scottish Children's Lottery (SCL), which is managed by our colleagues at STV ELM Ltd. You can find out more about the SCL on its website, including its Privacy Policy.

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Use, and understand our Privacy and Cookie Policies.

Upload Profile Picture

Please make sure your image is under 2mb in size and a valid JPG, PNG or GIF.

Are you sure?

Unfortunately, you'll be unable to access our premium content. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but if you change your mind you can rejoin us at any time.

Please verify your STV account

Please verify your STV account using the email we sent you. If you have lost the email, we can send you another one, just click the button below.

Thanks

We've sent you a new verification email.
Please check your email and follow the instructions to verify your account.

Welcome to STV
Thanks for joining us.

Oops!

Sorry, you must be at least 12 years old to place a vote for your Real Hero.

Please review our Voting Terms of Use for more information.

Oops!

Sorry! It seems that you are using a browser that is incompatible with our voting service.

To register your vote please copy the below URL in to your regular mobile browser. We recommend Google Chrome, or Safari.

http://shows.stv.tv/real-heroes/voting

Oops!

Sorry, you seem to have already voted in this category.

Thanks for voting

Now share your vote with friends on your social network

Share on twitter Share on facebook

Cast your vote

Please register or sign in to continue.

Cast your vote

This field is required. This doesn't appear to be a valid date

Cast your vote

Please fill out this form to cast your vote. As you are under 16 years old you will not create an STV account. Why do we need these details?

This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. Please enter at least 2 characters
This field is required. That doesn't look like a valid e-mail format, please check.
Location This field is required.
Parental Consent This field is required.

That's you. All that's left is to click the 'Submit Vote' button below. By doing so, you confirm that you and your parent or guardian have read and accept our Voting Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Cookie policy, and that the details you have entered are correct. We'll look after them as carefully as if they were our own.