FMQs: Scottish justice system is ‘stacked against victims’, says Douglas Ross on Michelle's Law

The Scottish justice system is “stacked against victims”, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has warned.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions on International Violence Against Women’s Day, Mr Ross raised a lack of progress in implementing Michelle’s Law.

Seventeen-year-old Michelle Stewart was murdered by John Wilson, then aged 20, in front of her friends near her Ayrshire home in 2008.

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Mr Ross said Ms Stewart’s sister Lisa had written to the First Minister's justice second to ask for an update on Michelle's Law and had been told at the time by former justice secretary Humza Yousaf that a scheme relating to tagging and GPS monitoring of those guilty of violent crime who have been released on licence would be in place by the end of November.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross. Picture: PA

The measures the family want to introduce call for the welfare of victims and their families to be taken into account when parole and early release are considered, as well as the creation of "exclusion zones" where offenders cannot go during early release.

Mr Ross said: “This was a promise made to a family who have gone through the worst of circumstances that none of us can imagine. And with less than a week to go, it sounds like that promise isn't going to be kept.”

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He cited a Freedom of Information response showing just 37 victims have been informed of their offender’s release date out of around 4,500 criminals serving short sentences.

Nicola Sturgeon said: “I do believe it is the case that the justice system, like all parts of our society, has to change to respond better to the needs of women who are subjected to violence and I readily accept that responsibility.

"It is the case that the government can take forward a range of changes and reforms and because some of what Douglas Ross has stated is not good enough.”

The First Minister added: “I'm glad this issue has been raised today. I accept my responsibility in Scotland to make sure all of these issues are addressed and that we take forward these changes and reforms because all of us have a duty to do everything that we can to keep women as safe as possible from violence.”

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