McArthur: Culture shift away from locking people up is needed

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has voiced concerns in light of new statistics that show courts ignore expert social work recommendations in two thirds of cases when handing down custodial sentences.

National Statistics released today show that, despite social workers’ reports recommending custodial sentences in just 5% of cases, custodial sentences accounted for 17% of report outcomes in 2015/16.

Meanwhile the number of community-based sentences, such as community payback orders, remains static, accounting for around 20,000 sentences a year.

Commenting Mr McArthur said:

“Just 5% of social work reports recommend custody yet more often than not this advice appears to be ignored by courts.  We need to see a culture shift from locking people up towards rehabilitating them and repairing the damage they caused.

“Despite the Scottish Government’s rhetoric, prisons are still operating beyond capacity and we haven’t seen any significant expansion in the use community-based sentences. All the evidence tells us these are more effective at reducing reoffending, avoid people becoming trapped in the criminal justice system and they save money too.

“That is why if SNP ministers are serious about implementing a culture shift then they should start by introducing a new presumption against prison sentences of less than 12 months, accompanied by the roll-out of more robust community sentences.”

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