Thousands of criminals to be released after serving only half their sentence
4 Jan 2014
Thousands of criminals will continue to be let out early before the end of their sentence under the SNP’s plans to change automatic early release.
Research by the Scottish Conservatives has revealed that of the 14,748 offenders handed a prison sentence last year, 97% (14,267) were given a sentence of less than four years.
Under current rules all of these offenders could qualify for automatic early release from prison after serving only half their sentence.
These include nine murderers, 603 convicted of serious assault or attempted murder, 183 convicted of sexual crimes such as rape and sexual assault and 628 convicted of knife crime.
In September, the Scottish Government boasted how they were ending “automatic release”.
However the SNP’s proposal, which is limited to violent criminals sentenced to more than 10 years or sex offenders sentenced to more than four years, will only end automatic early release for less than two per cent of offenders.
It comes more than seven years after the SNP first promised to end the controversial policy of automatic early release.
The figures show that even if the Scottish Government proposal was currently in place, 80 per cent – or 1,006 violent criminals – and 63 per cent – or 183 sex offenders – could still be released after serving only half their sentence.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP said:
“The SNP is attempting to fool the Scottish public into believing they are ending automatic early release.
“However, these figures show the vast majority of criminals will still enjoy being let out of prison, no questions asked, after serving only half their sentence.
“Criminals should serve the sentence they are handed down by the court.
“The fact this includes murderers and rapists, and those convicted of knife crimes, being allowed back on to our streets early is an insult to victims across Scotland.
“Automatic early release also gives a false impression of offenders being given tough sentences and does nothing to help the role of prisons acting as a deterrent or a centre for rehabilitation.
“The SNP promised in their 2007 and 2011 manifestos to end this controversial practise, and that pledge is as far away as ever from being delivered.
“The Scottish Conservatives have repeatedly called on the Scottish Government to scrap automatic early release but have been repeatedly voted down on this issue.
“However, we will continue to campaign to end this scandal to help make Scotland’s streets safer.”
December 2013 Professional Boxer Gareth Stemp was convicted of assaulting 4 different women, including a partner who was pregnant. His 30 month ventolin sentence will run concurrently with a 16 month sentence for a separate domestic abuse case. However, because of automatic early release he will be released in September next year.
September 2013 Darren Mitchell, was found guilty after admitting luring a 13 year old girl back to his flat and plying her with alcohol. He committed the offence just 2 weeks after being freed from prison after serving only half his sentence for luring another girl to his flat before taking turns to have sex with her with his brother.
April 2013 Sean McLaughlin, 31 repeatedly stabbed and killed Robert Brown who was the new boyfriend of his former partner. He was found guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to 10 years on 5th April 2013. The High Court in Edinburgh heard he had a history of offending with more than 50 previous convictions. When he carried out this brutal attack, which took place in May 2012, he still have over a year of his latest prison sentence left to serve, but instead was released early.
Table 10(a) of the Criminal Proceedings in Scotland, 2012-13 statistics show the sentences handed out for crimes and offences last year.
Of the 14,748 persons who received a custodial sentence in 2012/13:
14,267 persons were sentenced to a short term sentence (four years and under) and will be released half way through their sentence.
424 persons were sentenced to a long term sentence (over four years) and will be released at least two-thirds of the way through their sentence, if not half way.
9 persons sentenced for homicide but were given less than 4 years and will therefore be released half way through their sentence
603 persons sentenced for serious assault and attempted murder were given less than 4 years and therefore will be released half way through their sentence
183 persons sentenced for sexual crimes, including rape and attempted rape were given less than 4 years and will therefore be released half way through their sentence.
628 offenders were sentenced to less than 4 years for handling an offensive weapon and will therefore be released half way through their sentence.
The Scottish Government is proposing ending automatic early release for violent criminals sentenced to more than ten years or sex offenders sentenced to more than 4 years
Table 10(a) shows that, even if already introduced, 80% (1,006 out of 1,250) violent criminals and 63% (183 out of 292) of sex offenders would be released after serving half their sentence.