January 2015

Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Bill

The bill ends the right of certain long-term prisoners to automatic early release from prison at the two-thirds point of their sentences and allows prisoners serving all but very short sentences to be released from prison on a particular day suitable for their re-integration into the community. 

The Society’s Criminal Law Committee states in its evidence that the most coherent reason for the existence of a system of mandatory release on licence prior to the expiry of the entire sentence is that it allows a degree of testing in the community while offenders are subject to conditions, breach of which can result in a return to custody.  The Committee questions why the proposals within the Bill should only apply to certain categories of long-term prisoner.

In the Committee’s view, there is no conclusive evidence that the nature of the offence committed, or the sentence imposed, is in itself a reliable indicator of future risk. Indeed, there is some evidence that those serving the longest sentences are proportionately less likely to reoffend in a serious manner than those convicted of lesser offences.  The Committee also highlights the reference that ‘sex offenders pose a particular risk to the public’ but states that this is far from clear that this is correct and goes on to highlight evidence from the Parole Board annual reports which appear to dispel that proposition.

The full written evidence can be found on our website