Sentences of less than 12 months to be axed
● But Tories brand the move ‘soft touch justice’ and an insult to victims
Sentences of less than 12 months are set to be scrapped in an effort to slash Scotland’s prison population.
Justice secretary Humza Yousaf confirmed plans to raise the presumption from three months to 12 would be fast-tracked.
The move has won broad support among academics, but the Conservatives have labelled the change as “soft touch justice”.
Attempts are being made to reduce Scotland’s prison population by introducing a presumption against sentences of less than a year.
Justice secretary Humza Yousaf yesterday said he would bring forward plans to extend the current presumption from three months to 12, putting greater emphasis on community sentences.
Figures published yesterday by the Scottish Government show more than 30 per cent of community payback orders (CPOS) in 2017-18 were not completed.
The completion rate for drug treatment and testing orders (DTTOS) fell to 40 per cent – the lowest level recorded in seven years.
There were 17,800 CPOS begun in 2017-18 – a disposal introduced by the Scottish Government in 2011 that usually involves some form of unpaid work.
Extending the presumption against sentences of up to 12 months is supported by both Labour and the Liberal Democrats, but the Conservatives claim the move amounts to “soft touch justice”.
Labour’s justice spokesman Daniel Johnson said: “Our justice system should pursue sentences that deliver proper rehabilitation where possible.
“We welcome the presumption against short sentences, as evidence suggests that they offer limited opportunities for rehabilitation and training.
“While we welcome this change, a presumption against short sentences further underlines the need to
strengthen our community justice system.”
Lib Dem MSP Liam Mcarthur said: “Introducing a presumption against shortterm sentences of less than 12 months is a common sense move that Scottish Liberal Democrats have demanded for years.
“The evidence shows that community sentences are better than prison at reducing the chance of these people re-offending, meaning communities are safer.”
There is broad support
among academics and those working in the criminal justice system in favour of a presumption against sentences of less than 12 months amid evidence showing those who receive a community sentence are less likely to re-offend.
However, figures published last week showed that 27 per cent of prison sentences handed down by Scottish courts in 2017-18 were for periods of under three months.
That proportion has remained largely unchanged since 2011-12.
Liam Kerr, the Scottish Conservative justice spokesman, said: “It is an outrage that nearly a third of community sentences are not completed.
“Nicola Sturgeon’s plan to abolish sentences of less than a year could see almost 9,500 criminals avoid jail.
“In addition, it will just put more pressure on the community justice system, which already can’t cope.
“That’s just another insult to victims of crime.”
The Scottish Government said those released from short
prison sentences were almost twice as likely to be re-convicted as those given CPOS.
Mr Yousaf said: “As we plan for the extension of the presumption against short prison sentences, which is supported by empirical evidence and was backed by the vast majority of consultation respondents, we have protected and strengthened funding for Scotland’s criminal justice social work services so that it now stands at just over £100 million.”
0 The Scottish Government said those released from short prison sentences were almost twice as likely to be re-convicted as those given CPOS