We plan to end automatic early release for prisoners who present the most serious potential risk to the public. This includes those convicted of violent crimes who are sentenced to ten years in prison or more. In addition, automatic early release will be ended for sexual offenders sentened to four years or more.
The types of violent offending covered will include culpable homicide, attempted murder, serious assault and robbery, where an offender has received a sentence of ten years or more. The types of sexual offending covered will include rape, sexual assault and sexual offences against children, where an offender has received a sentence of four years or more.
Legislative provisions for the changes are planned to be introduced through a Stage 2 amendment to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill in early 2014. If approved by Parliament, they will end automatic early release for prisoners sentenced after the legislative provisions are brought into force.
In July 2008, the independent Scottish Prisons Commission made a series of recommendations in relation to the use of prison in 21st century Scotland. These included recommending an end to the current system of automatic early release once the other report recommendations had been implemented and the short sentenced prison population was reduced.
Currently, the automatic element of the system of early release operates in different ways depending on the length of fixed sentence imposed.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has outlined the background to the intention to end the system of automatic early release for certain categories of prisoners in a letter to the Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee.