More than half of Scots ‘want harsher sentences for criminals’

Prison is one of a range of sentencing options available to courts. Picture: Michael Cooper/PA Wire
Prison is one of a range of sentencing options available to courts. Picture: Michael Cooper/PA Wire
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More than half of Scots consider current court sentences to be too lenient, according to a new survey.

The Scottish Sentencing Council found 56 per cent of respondents believe the punishments to be “much too” or a “little too” lenient.

A majority of those who took part said they felt public protection was the most important purpose of sentencing.

It led to renewed calls for an end to “soft touch” justice and the presumption against prison sentences of less than a year.

Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative justice spokesman, said: “The SNP cannot continue to ignore the majority of Scots who oppose their soft touch justice.

“Almost 60 per cent of Scots agree that the courts’ number one priority should be protecting the public.

“This demonstrates why the SNP must support my Bill to keep the worst criminals in prison forever.

“And the SNP must abolish their presumption against prison sentences of less than a year and put victims and the public first.”

Ipsos MORI conducted 15-minute telephone interviews with 1,000 randomly selected adults in Scotland.

Results show the awareness of sentencing among the general population was mixed – 47 per cent said they knew a lot or a moderate amount, while 53 per cent stated they knew a little or nothing at all about the sentences.

The majority of respondents did have knowledge of the different non-custodial sentences available in Scotland.

However, there was a tendency to overestimate the proportion of convictions that result in prison sentences.

Judge Lady Dorrian, Lord Justice Clerk and chairwoman of the Scottish Sentencing Council, said: “While it is positive that most people contacted felt they had a good knowledge of sentencing options, it is clear from the survey that there remains work to be done to demystify sentencing in Scotland.”

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The research shows 62 per cent of Scots feel confident in how their criminal justice system deals with people who have committed offences and that most would sentence in a range of example cases in the exactly same way as the courts sentence.

“Our investment in prevention, enforcement and rehabilitation, both in prisons and in community justice, have contributed to Scotland’s reconviction rate falling to its lowest level in 20 years, in turn helping to keep crime down and communities safe.”