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Justice Committee majority backs further restriction on short sentences

12 June 2019

Proposals to extend the presumption against short prison sentences to terms of up to a year have been approved by a majority of Holyrood's Justice Committee.

The change was agreed by seven votes to two, with Conservative MSPs dissenting.

Committee convener Margaret Mitchell said she was "not convinced this is a sensible way forward to protect the public". The presumption could catch some very serious offending.

However Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf insisted that individual sheriffs and judges would have the discretion on whether the seriousness of the offence merited a custodial sentence.

He told the committee: "We have to believe in people’s ability to rehabilitate. I have to believe that people have that ability, regardless of the crime – and, this is perhaps controversial, even those that have committed the most heinous of crimes.

"Now if I believe that, as I do, then I have to ask myself what does the evidence show me and demonstrate is the most effective way to rehabilitate somebody.

"Is it a short sentence – or is it a community alternative that addresses the root causes? It is undoubtedly community alternatives."

Click here to view the committee's report.

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