McArthur: Sentencing reform essential

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today called on the Scottish Government to make progress towards extending the presumption against short-term prison sentences.

The call comes after official statistics revealed short-term sentences of up to 3 months made up 28% (3,500) of custodial sentences in 2016-17, despite the existing presumption against this ineffective practice. Sentences between 3 and 12 months accounted for a further 35% (nearly 7,000) of all sentences.

The Scottish Government's Programme for Government 2017-18 sets out an intention to extend the presumption against ineffective short-term prison sentences - a change Liberal Democrats have long called for.

Commenting on the figures, Mr McArthur said:

“These new figures prove sentencing reform is essential. We need to recognise that short stints in jail are invariably ineffective and counterproductive.

"They don't work because around 60% of people given the shortest prison sentences will re-offend within a year of release. By contrast, all the evidence demonstrates that robust community-based sentences are far more successful in reducing reoffending and healing communities.

“That is why the Scottish Liberal Democrats welcomed the Scottish Government’s backing our campaign to extend the presumption against short-term prison sentences. However, months on and there is no sign of any progress. Scottish Liberal Democrats will keep the pressure on the Scottish Government to deliver on this and the required expansion of robust community justice programmes."

Commenting on statistics showing rape and attempted rape proceedings in Scotland up by 16% in 2016-17, but convictions down by 7%, Mr McArthur said:

"These disturbing figures once again show that conviction rates for these crimes are desperately low. We need to give victims confidence to come forward. We urgently need better access to legal advice, support and forensic services."

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