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by Andrew Learmonth
25 November 2021
Scottish Government accused of breaking promise to family of murdered woman

Scottish Government accused of breaking promise to family of murdered woman

Douglas Ross has accused Nicola Sturgeon of letting down victims of crime.

The Scottish Tory leader made the claim during First Minister’s Questions, after the parliament marked International Violence Against Women’s Day with a minute’s silence. 

He raised the case of seventeen-year-old Michelle Stewart, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend John Wilson, then aged 20, in front of her friends near her Ayrshire home in 2008.

Her family have been campaigning for the implementation of Michelle’s Law, a proposal that would mean the welfare of victims and their families would be central to any decision on parole and early release.

It would also see the creation of "exclusion zones" where offenders cannot go during early release, and improvements to the notification scheme, so that families are told in advance of a release and given reasons for the offender’s early release. 

Ross said that despite the government’s support for the legislation, victims were routinely being “left in the dark”. He cited a Freedom of Information response showing that just 37 victims have been informed of their offender’s release date out of around 4,500 criminals serving short sentences.

Ross said Humza Yousaf - when he was justice secretary - had told Michelle's family that a scheme relating to tagging and GPS monitoring of those guilty of violent crime who have been released on licence would be in place by the end of November.

Ross said: “This was a promise made to a family who have gone through the worst of circumstances that none of us can imagine. And with less than a week to go, it sounds like that promise isn't going to be kept.”

Responding, Nicola Sturgeon said: “I do believe it is the case that the justice system, like all parts of our society, has to change to respond better to the needs of women who are subjected to violence and I readily accept that responsibility.

"It is the case that the government can take forward a range of changes and reforms and because some of what Douglas Ross has stated is not good enough.”

The First Minister added: “I'm glad this issue has been raised today. I accept my responsibility in Scotland to make sure all of these issues are addressed and that we take forward these changes and reforms because all of us have a duty to do everything that we can to keep women as safe as possible from violence.”

Elsewhere, during First Minister’s Questions, Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would not turn to nuclear power as a means of reaching net zero. 

It comes after Labour said nuclear power should be "part of the mix" to help meet Scotland's future energy demand.
Sturgeon said: “Renewables, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage provides the best pathway to net zero by 2045 and will deliver the decarbonisation we need to see across industry, heat and transport.

"We believe that nuclear power represents poor value for consumers.”

Read the most recent article written by Andrew Learmonth - SNP minister's 'disappointment and loss' over Derek Mackay texting scandal

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