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SNP must put bid to empty prisons on hold

7 Jun 2018

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP speaking during First Minister's Questions held in the Scottish parliament, Edinburgh today. 09 June 2016. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

The SNP government has been urged to put on hold plans to rely more on the tagging of offenders until it can prove the system works.

The call comes after the case of killer James Wright, who was able to stab father-of-three John McClelland to death despite being “unlawfully at large” for almost six months.

At First Minister’s Questions today Ruth Davidson demanded the SNP shelves elements of the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill which would lead to even more tagging as an alternative to jail.

The Scottish Conservative leader criticised ministers for not collecting or publishing statistics on criminals who are let out on home detention curfews, but then go on to commit further offences, like the example of Wright, who has now been jailed for life.

But in the SNP proposals, it states the ambition to “make the use of electronic monitoring more appealing to sheriffs as an alternative to custody”.

This is despite justice secretary Michael Matheson acknowledging there are problems with the system by ordering a two-pronged investigation.

However, Nicola Sturgeon claimed prison was not effective for many criminals, and that Scotland’s justice system was not weighted against the interests of victims.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said:

“It’s simply wrong that figures are not collected and published on tagged criminals who go on to offend.

“The only time the public ever find out is when someone ends up in court, like the appalling case we saw this week.

“The SNP government is currently proposing to move to a system that empties jails, and becomes even more dependent on tagging.

“These plans must be put on hold until the public can be reassured the system actually works.

“It’s time for the Scottish justice system to put victims first, and ensure horrendous cases like that of James Wright cannot be repeated.”