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by Louise Wilson
17 March 2022
‘No public protection issues’ from prison risk assessment error, insists Nicola Sturgeon

‘No public protection issues’ from prison risk assessment error, insists Nicola Sturgeon

There are “no public protection issues” arising from an IT error which led to prisoners being wrongly graded in a risk assessment, the First Minister has insisted.

But the Scottish Conservatives have said it was still unclear how many people were wrongly released as a result of the flawed process.

Ministers were warned the glitch, which dates back to 2012, could have led to criminals being released too early.

Addressing the issue at FMQs, Nicola Sturgeon said decisions on early release never rested solely on the risk assessment grading and open cases had been checked.

She also said of the eight individuals who had been granted the first stage of temporary release – whereby they may have limited or escorted access to communities – seven of them were still in custody.

She said: “Following a review by the Scottish Prison Service, we can confirm there are no public protection issues as a consequence of this issue in relation to the eight identified first grant of temporary release cases… All 285 open cases that the risk scoring level issues appeared to have affected have also now been checked by social work professionals and they have provided assurances again that no public protection issues have been identified.”

Justice secretary Keith Brown previously told parliament there were also 1,037 closed cases affected by the error, though in 537 of these cases social workers had overriden the score at the time.

Jamie Greene, the Scottish Tory justice spokesperson who was standing in for Douglas Ross, said the justice system in Scotland was “stacked against victims”.

He said: “It’s all very well saying there were no public protection issue, but the reality is we still don’t know, First Minister. We don’t know how many people were wrongly released.  We also don’t know how many of them possibly went on to reoffend in our communities. I’m afraid this blunder is just another sign that this government has lost its way on justice.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar challenged the government on its response to the looming cost-of-living crisis.

Warning that people’s energy bills, petrol prices and food prices were all going up, Sarwar accused the government of “failing to use its budget to support those in need”.

He urged the First Minister to “step up to the challenge”.

Sturgeon pointed to a number of steps the government had taken to alleviate poverty, such as the Scottish Child Payment, insisting it was doing all it could within its powers.

“Where we have the power, we use that power. Where the power is limited, unfortunately, we can’t act in the way that we would want,” she added.

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