FMQs: Justice system "tilted in favour" of criminals

Nicola Sturgeon offered condolences to the victim's family
Nicola Sturgeon offered condolences to the victim's family
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Nicola Sturgeon has rejected claims that Scotland's justice system is "tilted against victims" as she faced a grilling over the murder of a father by an inmate "illegally" at large.

But the First Minister admitted there are currently 63 of prisoners "unlawfully" in the community having breached home detention curfews (HDC) - with roughly about 300 inmates on home release at any time.

Read more: Justice in the dock as killer left stab young father to death
Ms Sturgeon offered her condolences to the family of Craig McClelland who was knifed to death by Jamie Wright in Paisley last year. The thug was jailed for life this week, but it emerged this week he had breached the terms of his HDC five months and his release had been revoked. It r prompted a furious backlash.

Ms Sturgeon said: "This is an appalling case and he committed a dreadful crime and I want to take the opportunity to express my deepest sympathies to McClelland's family and to his friends."

Tory leader Ruth Davidson called for plans to extend the use of tagging in Scotland for prisoners on home release to be halted while a review is conducted in the system following the McClelland case.

Read more: review into killing of Scots father by freed knife thug
The Tory leader told MSPs that his killer had 16 previous convictions, including two for knife crime.

"Scotland's justice system is tilted far too much in favour of those convicted of crime and too often turns a deaf ear to the victims of those crimes," the Tory leader said.

"It is long past time that we had action from this Government to correct that basic injustice."

She also called for an overhaul of the parole system which would give victims the right to speak at parole board hearings and to challenge decisions to "let criminals out on parole."

Ms Sturgeon insisted that the parole board is an independent body, but said discussions have been taking place about "future development" of its rules.

But she added: "It is not the case that our justice system is tilted towards criminals rather than victims. Scotland has one of the highest prison populations anywhere in Western Europe. "Part of the problem is that we know that prison is not the most effective sentence in terms of reducing re-offending for some of those who commit offences."