Criminals facing 18 months in jail could escape prison altogether under the SNP’s soft-touch justice plans, it has been warned.
Lord Turnbull, one of Scotland’s top judges, said the proposals to presume against sentences of less than a year would, in reality, cover sentences of up to a year-and-a-half, once discounts for early guilty pleas had been taken into account.
And he said people convicted of attacking emergency service workers would be among those to escape with fines and community sentences.
Other crimes which could result in the perpetrator walking free from court include the possession and distribution of indecent images of children; causing death by dangerous driving; possession of knives or weapons; and some charges of multiple housebreaking.
He was giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee today, and also warned that the new sentencing structure wouldn’t necessarily address reconviction rates.
Other experts appearing before MSPs today raised similar concerns.
Victim Support Scotland said community sentences should not be used where there has been physical or psychological harm caused, and Social Work Scotland told the committee that there was already a “lack of resources” to deal with existing offenders who don’t go to prison.
The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research said the changes would be more expensive, and Strathclyde University’s Dr Cyrus Tata said existing SNP claims that the presumption against three-month sentences had reduced reconviction were “dodgy”.
Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said:
“Victims were already disgusted at the idea of scrapping sentences of less than a year.
“The fact this seems to be increasing to 18 months will compound that feeling that they’re being let down by a soft-touch justice system under the SNP.
“It’s also very concerning to hear that violent criminals who attack police, paramedics and fire-fighters could be let off the hook.
“The SNP needs to think again on this.
“It’s vital that the justice system keeps ordinary people safe, punishes crime and offers sufficient deterrent to those considering crime.
“The SNP’s proposals fail on every single one of those counts.”