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Parole Board report prompts calls for end to early release of prisoners

23 December 2009

Opposition politicians have called for an end to the automatic early release of prisoners after the Parole Board for Scotland revealed that 150 freed inmates had been sent back to prison last year.

In its annual report, the board said it had been asked to consider the cases of 212 criminals who were freed automatically and whose behaviour was giving “rise to concern”, and it recommended that 150 of them be recalled. Prisoners sentenced to four years' imprisonment or more on or after 1 October 1993 are automatically released from custody when they have served two-thirds of the sentence.

Labour MSP James Kelly said the figures should be a “wake-up call”, showing that early release of prisoners who then committed further crimes was undermining faith in the justice system. Tory MSP John Lamont called for an end to “soft-touch Scotland”.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the Government was committed to replacing the present “arbitrary” system of automatic early release with one that related to the risk posed by an individual offender.

Parole decisions "sound"

The board’s report showed that it recommended release on parole in 227 of the 627 determinate sentence prisoners whose cases were referred to it.

The number of life sentence prisoners released on licence was 52.

Twelve prisoners who were granted parole were subsequently referred back to the board for consideration for recall to custody.

Board chairman Sandy Cameron said public safety was its number one consideration. “I believe that the information in this year's report shows that, in the main, our decisions to grant parole are sound.

"In all cases the board sets licence conditions which are individually designed to assist with the management of the risk factors. Compliance with these conditions is not optional – it is an obligation on the offender in return for the privilege of being allowed to serve part of their sentence in the community.

"So while committing a further offence is very likely to result in the individual being recalled to prison, a breach of any condition can result in recall. In granting parole or in setting licence conditions the board hopes that each individual offender will be able to grasp the opportunity with the support and guidance of their supervising officers to resettle successfully into the community and lead their life without further offending."


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