The Scottish Conservatives and the family of a girl killed by an ex-partner have cautiously welcomed a consultation on parole that will include all three elements of the Michelle’s Law campaign.
The Stewart family received a letter from the Justice Secretary announcing that the Scottish Government will consult on the parole system before the end of the year.
The campaign for Michelle’s Law was organised by the family after Michelle’s murderer was approved for temporary release without their knowledge.
They have demanded that the safety and welfare of victims and their families is explicitly taken into account when parole and temporary release are considered.
The campaign has also demanded the increased use of powers to impose ‘exclusion zones’ on offenders, and that the Victim Notification Scheme is toughened up so that victims and their families are given reasons for an offender’s release, and can make representations in person.
While the consultation doesn’t include temporary release of criminals, something that is also of concern to the Stewart family, it will focus on enabling victims and their families to attend hearings in person, the use of licence conditions, and how victims and their families could give evidence to the Board on ‘potential risks to their safety and welfare’.
The Scottish Conservatives have said that this represents the first step in the process of providing victims and their families with a meaningful input into the parole system, but it is no substitute for action.
Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary said;
“This a step forward for the Stewart family who have been courageously campaigning for victims and families to have a meaningful role in the justice system.
“The consultation on parole is a good start, but it must be followed by action.
“Michelle’s Law is about putting victims at the centre of the justice system, not criminals.
“The SNP must also expand these measures to cover temporary release from prison.
“The Scottish Conservatives will be watching to ensure that the SNP implements Michelle’s law, in its entirety, to ensure all victims voices are heard.”
Lisa Stewart, Michelle’s sister said;
“Nothing will bring Michelle back but we can make the system better for other victims.
“We welcome the announcement of the public consultation on the parole system as it needs to have more openness and transparency.
“We are pleased that Mr Yousaf has stated that the consultation will include the three specific points of the Michelle's Law campaign as this is a step forward in ensuring victims have a voice and are heard and listened to during the parole hearings, but it must also apply to temporary release.
“Victims need to be at the heart of the justice system rather than offenders.”