FMQs: Douglas Ross: Murder of Esther Brown ‘damning example of the glaring flaws in Scotland’s justice system’

The procedures in place to protect people from repeat sex offenders “clearly didn’t work” in the case of the rape and murder of Esther Brown, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has admitted.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon said there were processes in place to “minimise risks” caused by registered sex offenders.

The case of 67-year-old Ms Brown, who was raped and murdered in her own home by Jason Graham, a registered sex offender with 23 previous convictions, was raised by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross in relation to proposed reforms of the release of prisoners.

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Mr Ross said the 19-year jail term that Graham received on Wednesday was “a long sentence, but not nearly long enough for such a horrific crime”.

Floral tributes in West Princes Street in the Woodlands area of Glasgow following the death of pensioner Esther Brown in June.

The Scottish Government this week launched a consultation into the use of bail and remand, which proposed some criminals could be eligible for release after just a third of their sentence.

Mr Ross said the government document also suggested short-term prisoners could receive automatic early release after just a third of their time served, despite Nicola Sturgeon previously promising to end the practice.

He said: “The tragic case of Esther Brown is yet another damning example of the glaring flaws in Scotland’s justice system.

"Jason Graham was released early. He wasn’t monitored properly. Grave mistakes were made – and this is not an isolated example.

"Nicola Sturgeon cannot honestly say that her government’s approach to justice is keeping Scottish people safe.

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“She hasn’t delivered a promise from six years ago to end automatic early release and, as a result, more dangerous offenders are being released early all the time. The SNP’s latest consultation would take our justice system even further in the wrong direction, risking public safety.”

He added: “It’s too late for Esther Brown, but this must change.

"Scottish Conservative plans for a Victims’ Law would restore confidence that is sadly lacking. Far too often in the SNP’s soft-touch justice system, criminals are put first, not victims.”

Ms Sturgeon said: “Absolutely nothing, including nothing I or anyone else in this chamber can say will ease the pain that [Esther Brown’s] family is suffering or ease the pain of anyone who knew her.”

She added: “In Scotland, we imprison a higher proportion of our population than any other country in Western Europe. So it's not that we don’t send a lot of people to prison.

"The question is, is prison always the effective punishment for people? And it will be in many, many cases.

"We want to have a system of release from prison that has firstly, risk assessment and victim safety at its heart and also, it looks at what is most effective to reduce reoffending.

"The consultation that was published this week is a consultation and I would encourage people across the chamber and indeed the wider public to respond to that consultation.

"It is important to say the abolition of automatic early release for the most dangerous long-term prisoners is not affected by any of the consultation proposals that were published earlier this week.”

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