The decision by Holyrood’s Justice Committee to support abolishing jail sentences of less than a year “betrays” the victims of crime, the Scottish Conservatives have said.
Other opposition parties today backed the controversial SNP plans, which will see dangerous criminals guilty of a range of serious crimes walk free from court.
Only Scottish Conservative MSPs Liam Kerr and Margaret Mitchell voted against the legislation, which will now progress to the next stage of the parliamentary process.
The SNP government has been warned by a number of victims’ organisations and leading legal experts about the consequences of the move.
And the changes would come at a time when a third of community payback orders are never completed, while millions of pounds in fines remain outstanding.
It’s been pointed out that criminals convicted of assault, housebreaking, distributing child pornography and various drugs offences would now get off with a fine or community sentence.
And, despite claiming tackling domestic abuse is a priority, the decision by SNP ministers will ensure the majority of violent domestic abusers will skip prison too.
Justice secretary Humza Yousaf today conceded at the Holyrood committee that his ambition was “closing prisons, not building prisons”.
Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said:
“Abolishing jail sentences of less than a year completely betrays the victims of crime in Scotland.
“People who’ve fallen victim to crime need to have faith the justice system has their back.
“Yet under these plans, potentially thousands of people will walk free from court despite being convicted of crimes like assault, housebreaking and even distributing child pornography.
“And if the SNP is vaguely serious about tackling domestic violence, this move – which will let the majority of absuers off the hook – is a strange way of showing it.
“The SNP devised these plans, but Labour, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats should be equally ashamed for not standing up to them.
“They’re not only an insult to victims, but will see an overstretched Community Payback Order regime – which sees one in three skip the work – put under even more pressure.”