A fifth of tagged offenders breach home detention curfews
The Scottish Conservatives are pushing for changes to the home detention and parole systems
Person with an electronic tag - Image credit: Arne Dedert/DPA/PA Images
A fifth of tagged offenders breached a home detention curfew last year, figures from the Scottish Prison Service have revealed.
Out of 1,434 prisoners released granted release from prison and tagged in 2017-18, 300 were in breach of a home detention order – 21 per cent of the total.
This is a rise on previous years. In 2016-17 it was 241 out of 1,381 prisoners released and in 2015-16 it was 222 of 1,449.
The figures were released following a freedom of information request by the Scottish Conservatives.
Not all breaches necessarily mean the prisoner deliberately broke the terms of the curfew, as they could also include issues with the monitoring equipment.
However, the Scottish Conservatives have raised concerns about the numbers of offenders breaching terms of home detention curfew and recently called for criminals removing their tags to made a crime in its own right.
This follows the murder of Craig McClelland last year by James Wright, who had been unlawfully at large for six months at the time of the attack after breaching the terms of his release from prison.
Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr suggested the numbers breaking curfew meant they should not have been released.
Kerr said: “The fact an increasing number of criminals are breaching home detention curfews suggests these decisions are being taken too lightly.
“Now more than a fifth of these offenders breach the terms of their release, which suggests they should never have been set free in the first place.
“If sentences were of sufficient length, and the rehabilitation infrastructure vastly improved, the integration of these individuals would be far more successful.
“But what we see now is a soft-touch approach from the SNP government which is spreading right across the justice system.
“Not only are more criminals breaching these orders, but some who are can get away with this for years on end.
“That risks public safety, and is a gross insult to victims of crime who’ve already gone through enough.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Home detention curfew is an established and important mechanism in preparing individuals for release from custody, and is only available to those prisoners who have been assessed as being at low risk of reoffending.
They added: “The reviews of HDC that we have instructed will highlight where more must be done to improve the process of apprehending those who are unlawfully at large, and prevent this from happening in the first place.”
The Scottish Conservatives have also called for victims to have a greater right of appeal over the granting of parole.
The party is would like victims to be able to attend parole board hearings and be given reasons for why parole is being granted.
New justice secretary Humza Yousaf has indicated he would be open to the proposals.
In a letter to Liam Kerr, he said: “The Scottish Government is fully committed to making sure that the parole process in Scotland is as open and transparent as possible and that everything that can be done to help and support victims through that process is considered.
“Given my new role I would welcome further discussion on the issues raised. I will keep an open mind on the proposals.”
Researchers interviewed 17 victims, none of whom said that they felt justice had been achieved in their cases.
The National Community Justice Leadership Group will be co-chaired by Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and Councillor Kelly Parry of COSLA
The case involves the same group of pro-EU politicians involved in a case at the European Court of Justice