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No early end for early release

18 January 2011

Automatic early release of prisoners who have served half their sentences is to remain in place for the time being despite legislation to end the right, according to a parliamentary answer.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill confirmed in a reply to Labour's James Kelly that the Scottish Government's draft budget for 2011-12 "does not contain specific funds to finance the implementation of section 18 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010".

The automatic early release law, introduced in 1993, applies to those sentenced to four years or less. It has been repeatedly criticised by political parties in opposition, and by police representatives, for letting out of custody offenders who continue to pose a threat. Amending legislation was initially passed in 2007, and amended last year by section 18, but neither version has been brought into force.

Pressure on prisoner numbers together with the costs attached to additional supervision of released offenders as proposed, are believed to lie behind the delay.

Mr MacAskill stated: "The Scottish Government remains committed to ending automatic early release and officials have been in discussion with a range of interests to determine how we can implement this effectively in light of the spending cuts passed down by the UK Government.

"We will review funding under the spending review proposals for 2012-13 and beyond."


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