SNP criticised for soft-touch justice as home detention curfew breaches rise

James Wright was 'unlawfully at large' when he killed Craig McClelland (pictured), of Foxbar, Paisley, Renfrewshire, in July last year. Picture: contributed
James Wright was 'unlawfully at large' when he killed Craig McClelland (pictured), of Foxbar, Paisley, Renfrewshire, in July last year. Picture: contributed
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The number of home detention curfew breaches is rising, according to new figures.

Around one in five (18 per cent) offenders on the curfews, which allow prisoners to serve part of their sentence on licence in the community while wearing an electronic tag, are recalled behind bars.

In 2017/18 for the 1,434 prisoners released under the system there were 300 curfew breaches.

This is up from 241 breaches out of 1,381 people the previous year and 222 breaches from 1,449 people in 2015/16.

Recalls to custody have also risen over the three years, from 184 in 2015/16, to 190 the following year and 261 in 2017/18.

The Scottish Conservatives obtained the figures from the Scottish Prison Service under Freedom of Information and the party’s justice spokesman Liam Kerr said they show a “soft-touch” justice system.

• READ MORE: Justice in dock as killer left free to stab young father to death

The prison service said the breaches include failures of equipment.

The figures follow reports in the Scottish Daily Mail that 15 offenders recalled after breaching their curfews have been on the run for five years or more and of these, one has been missing for a decade.

Systems for monitoring offenders have been under increased scrutiny after a man was given a life sentence last month after stabbing a father-of-three to death following a breach of his home detention curfew.

James Wright was “unlawfully at large” when he killed Craig McClelland, of Foxbar, Paisley, Renfrewshire, in July last year.

Following his sentencing, the Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary were instructed to hold a review of home detention curfews.

Mr Kerr said: “The fact an increasing number of criminals are breaching home detention curfews suggests these decisions are being taken too lightly.

“Now more than a fifth of these offenders breach the terms of their release, which suggests they should never have been set free in the first place.

“If sentences were of sufficient length, and the rehabilitation infrastructure vastly improved, the integration of these individuals would be far more successful.

“But what we see now is a soft-touch approach from the SNP government which is spreading right across the justice system.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Home detention curfew is an established and important mechanism in preparing individuals for release from custody, and is only available to those prisoners who have been assessed as being at low risk of reoffending.

“The reviews of HDC that we have instructed will highlight where more must be done to improve the process of apprehending those who are unlawfully at large, and prevent this from happening in the first place.”