McArthur: Thousands of short-term sentences show reform is essential

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today spoken out against short-term prison sentences after new statistics revealed short-term sentences of up to 3 months made up 30% of custodial sentences in 2015-16.

Statistics released today by the Scottish Government also show an increase in domestic abuse and sexual crimes of 44% and 53% respectively since 2010/11, leading Mr McArthur to call for support and resources to meet the needs of victims.

Scottish Liberal Democrats support extending the presumption against short sentences to cover prison sentences of less than 12 months, reforming the current ineffective 3 month presumption. This will ensure a better allocation of resources to robust community sentences which are proven to reduce reoffending rather than further exclude people.

Commenting Mr McArthur said:

“These new figures prove sentencing reform is essential. More than 4,000 people were handed sentences of less than three months, despite the existing presumption against this ineffective practice. A further 7,000 people were given sentences of less than a year - sentences which experts including the independent prisons inspector have asked be curbed. 

“Rather than being given disruptive short spells in prison, such offenders would be better serving tough community-based sentences, which all the evidence shows are far more successful in reducing reoffending and healing communities. They are not soft options, but they do help preserve employment and housing options, family links and limit the damage on dependent children.

“That is why the Scottish Liberal Democrats have proposed changing the destructive culture of short, sharp stints in prison through a new presumption against sentences of 12 months or less, alongside an expansion of robust community justice programmes.”

Reflecting on new figures on convictions for domestic abuse and sexual crimes, Mr McArthur added: 

“While measures to address domestic abuse are giving people the confidence to come forward, we must also ensure there is the subsequent support and resources to meet the needs of the victims. 

“Ministers must reflect on this, particularly as Parliament considers a new criminal offence of domestic abuse as part of a range of initiatives aimed at tackling this dreadful crime.”

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