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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2006, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK
Move to scrap early jail release
Prisoners will be given a minimum period in custody
Prisoners will be given a minimum period in custody
The automatic early release of prisoners without conditions is to be scrapped in Scotland, Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson has said.

Under the new system, prisoners will be given a minimum period in custody of half their total sentence.

Offenders will then be monitored as they serve the "community part" of their sentence and will be returned to prison if they breach their licence.

Ms Jamieson said the public had "lost confidence in the current system".

Ministers pledged an end to the system after a series of high-profile crimes involved offenders allowed out early.

Currently offenders given fewer than four years - except sex offenders - can serve just half of their sentence before being released.

Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson
In future victims and their families, as well as offenders themselves, will know precisely what sentences mean in practice
Cathy Jamieson
Justice Minister

Prisoners with longer sentences are automatically freed after serving two-thirds, regardless of their behaviour in jail.

Under the new system offenders will serve at least half of their sentence in prison, although the court will be able to make this "custody part" longer.

At the end of the "custody part" of the sentence offenders will serve the "community part" on licence.

Conditions will be attached to the licence depending on the offenders risk and needs.

Prison assessments

Restrictions on movement such as electronic tagging can also be used.

Offenders will be assessed throughout their time in prison and will not be released on licence if they are considered to carry "an unacceptable risk" to the public.

Announcing the move, Ms Jamieson said: "The people of Scotland deserve a first-class justice system that is fair, swift and has public safety at its heart.

Inmates will be assessed during the custody part of their sentences

"But they have lost confidence in the current system where an offender's prison release is calculated by the length of sentence, rather than the risk they may pose."

The minister said her plans delivered on a commitment to end a "discredited" system.

She said: "In future victims and their families, as well as offenders themselves, will know precisely what sentences mean in practice."

The executive intends to introduce legislation relating to the proposals in the autumn.

'Good behaviour'

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie called the plans a "complicated fudge".

She said: "It is not the end of early release and it does not bring honesty in sentencing. Prisoners will still be liable to spend only half their sentence in prison.

"Our proposals would mean that the time handed down would be the time actually served, with only a sixth of the sentence available as remission based on good behaviour."

Miss Goldie said her party would bring forward amendments to the bill to create a longer custodial portion and restore "greater honesty and transparency".

Minister explains decision to scrap automatic early release

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13 Dec 04 |  Scotland
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