Thousands of criminals will still get out early under SNP sentence changes

3 Sep 2013

Thousands of criminals will still be let out of jail automatically before the end of their sentence under the SNP’s plans to change automatic early release.

Alex Salmond today said that sex offenders given more than four years and violent offenders more than 10 years will no longer be released automatically – six years after the SNP first promised to take action.

However, the changes would only apply to 2% of offenders given a custodial sentence last year.

It means that 15,543 offenders given sentences of less than four years or longer for offences not considered violent crimes or sexual offences will still enjoy automatic early release.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP said:

“This is a welcome step following years of pressure from the Scottish Conservatives to tackle the scandal of early automatic release.

“But it does not go nearly far enough, and will still result in thousands of criminals being let out of prison automatically before they finish their sentence.

“When a judge or sheriff sets down a sentence, the public expect that sentence to be served in full.

“This half-baked measure announced by Alex Salmond will not make our communities safer and give comfort to all victims and their families.

“The First Minister has been promising the people of Scotland for six years to end automatic early release.

“I will continue to press Alex Salmond to make sure the thousands of criminals free to leave jail early will actually serve the sentences they’re given.”



Today, the Scottish Government has announced it will be ending automatic early release for violent criminals given a sentence of more than 10 years and sex offenders who are given sentences of more than 4 years.
While this is clearly a welcome step (6 years after the SNP promised to take action), it is obviously a limited one – it will apply to less than 2% of offenders given a custodial sentence.
15,543 offenders will still enjoy automatic early release either because they are given sentences of less than 4 years or because they are given longer sentences for offences which are not violent crimes or sexual offences.
The table below is based on Scottish Government custodial sentencing figures: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/11/5336/18


Type of Offender

Percentage of total given a custodial sentence

Total Sentenced 2011-12



Violent criminals sentenced to > 4 years



Rape and Sexual Assault offenders sentenced to > 4 years



Maximum number of offenders who will no longer enjoy automatic early release under Scottish Government proposals









Number of offenders who will continue to enjoy automatic early release