Hundreds of killers and rapists freed early under early-release scheme

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THOUSANDS of violent criminals, including killers and rapists, are being released from jail under Scotland’s controversial automatic early-release scheme.

There are 161 rapists and 277 killers among nearly 5,000 violent criminals being freed under the scheme where convicted 
offenders can be let out after serving just half their sentence, official figures have revealed.

A spokesman for Victim Support Scotland yesterday called for the automatic early-release scheme to be scrapped.

The spokesman said: “Victim Support Scotland deals with 200,000 victims of crime a year who find it very difficult to understand the sentencing tariff.

“We support plans to end early release and, from a victims’ point of view, everyone wants to see this resolved.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson attacked the SNP’s record on crime yesterday, claiming the Scottish Government had failed to halt the automatic early-release scheme despite pledges at the 2007 and 2011 Holyrood elections to abolish it.

The row came as the figures showed nearly 5,000 violent criminals convicted between 2007 and 2011 have either been released or will be released from jail after serving half or two-thirds of the original sentences handed to them by the courts.

More than 3,000 criminals convicted of serious assault and attempted murder between 2007 and 2011 are being released early under the scheme, according to the Scottish Government figures.

The 161 rapists and 277 murderers convicted during the same period are also being released after either serving half or two-thirds of their sentences.

Ms Davidson claimed opinion polls showed overwhelming public opposition to the scheme and accused the government of failing on Scotland’s crime rate.

She said: “Justice has been little more than an afterthought. We know the public don’t like it because 95 per cent oppose early release.”

Ms Davidson also claimed Alex Salmond had “sat on his hands” over violent crime and the issue of early release since his election as First Minister in 2007.

But the First Minister dismissed Ms Davidson’s attack at Holyrood, saying previous Conservative governments at Westminster had introduced the scheme. Mr Salmond said that on the early-release scheme, Ms Davidson should have “modesty” in calling for a previous Conservative policy to be scrapped as he defended the SNP government’s record on crime.

A spokesman for the First Minister later accused Ms Davidson of “hypocrisy” as he claimed that the Conservatives had threatened to block the SNP’s plans to abolish the early-release scheme during the last parliament.