Thousands of rapists and killers released early from Scottish prisons
Thousands of Scotland’s most violent rapists and killers have been freed from prison since Alex Salmond promised to abolish the system of automatic early release, it has emerged.
The Scottish Tories published official figures showing around 5,000 criminals convicted of the most serious offences have been released after serving as little as half their sentences.
This total includes 3,298 offenders convicted of serious assault and attempted murder, 277 of culpable homicide and 161 of rape or attempted rape.
However, the SNP came to power in 2007 promising to abolish the system. Since then more than 64,000 offenders have become eligible for early release.
Lord Ross, the former Lord Justice Clerk, has admitted the system meant he felt he was taking part in “something in the nature of a charade” when he sentenced a criminal.
Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, yesterday used First Minister’s Questions to publish the figures and challenge Mr Salmond to overhaul the system but he refused.
Speaking afterwards, she said: “Alex Salmond today displayed nothing but complacency towards the anguish felt by victims and their families. He made it clear justice is little more than an afterthought for the SNP.
“Ending automatic early release was part of two SNP election manifestos, yet the First Minister has sat on his hands as dangerous criminals have been let out early on to Scotland’s streets.”
Under the current system, prisoners serving sentences of four years or fewer are automatically freed from prison after serving half their sentences with no strings attached.
Those serving longer sentences can be freed after half or two-thirds of their sentences with conditions attached to their release so they can be monitored in the community.
Five years ago MSPs passed legislation aimed at ending the system, but it has never been enforced.
According to the figures, 2,721 criminals convicted of serious assault or attempted murder have since been released after serving only half their sentences and 577 after two-thirds of their jail terms.
Fifty-two killers have been freed after half of their sentences and 225 after two-thirds of the jail terms. Twenty-one rapists and attempted rapists have been freed after half their sentences and 140 after two-thirds.
In addition, 3,716 criminals convicted of handling an offensive weapon have been freed after serving half their sentences since the SNP came to power.
Among the most notorious examples involved Darren McIntosh, a paedophile from Galashiels, who was jailed for four years in 2009 for a sexual assault on an eight-year-old boy.
He was released two years later despite being deemed a “high risk” to children. But Mr Salmond pointed out that the Tories introduced automatic early release in the 1990s.
The First Minister told MSPs that more criminals are being caught and that levels of serious crime are at their lowest levels in a generation.