Scottish Lib Dems to oppose jail terms of less than a year

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have announced another major policy. A few weeks go, they announced their penny on income tax to raise £475 million for investment in education.

Today, Justice spokesperson Alison McInnes has announced that the party will oppose prison sentences of less than a year.

From the BBC:

As part of their 2016 election manifesto, the Scottish Liberal Democrats are to formally back doubling that, by extending the presumption to 12 months.

Justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes said prison sentences for more serious offenders should be complemented by “tough” community service programmes.
“One of the main priorities for Scottish Liberal Democrats is having a criminal justice system where if someone breaks the law, they are swiftly brought to justice,” she said. “But we also believe offenders deserve a chance to get back on track and community rehabilitation is a fundamental part of that.

“A prison place costs £37,000 a year – much more than effective community-based sentences like Community Payback Orders which cost on average £1,900.
“That means this policy will also enable the Scottish Prison Service to really focus on engaging with more serious long-term offenders, not those who experts have deemed more troubling than dangerous.”

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10 Comments

  • A very brave and bold policy. I’m actually amazed. That’s four things that jump out at me in the run up to the Scottish elections now:

    1. Promising to increase public spending and being honest about where the money will come from.

    2. Legalising cannabis and taxing it, not the lets decriminalise and force people into treatment spineless fudge.

    3. Challenging the SNP on their over use of stop and search.

    4. Now this. I agree. Prison should be when there is no alternative because the person won’t change their behaviour and is a real threat to society.

    These are all policies that I believe are right both in practical terms and in principle. Bold policies too.

    I’m almost sorry that I can’t vote lib dem. I’ve got to be honest, at the moment I love what I’m hearing from the lib dems. It’s just that the party can’t be trusted to do any of this in the event they get anywhere near power. I won’t go over the reasons again why I think the liberal democrats can’t be trusted.

  • I remember a recent case when a criminal headbutted a barman causing extensive damage to the barman’s face. The criminal had 8 previous convictions and had received a conditional discharge only 3 weeks before they attacked the barman. The criminal received a 12 week prison sentence – I presume the Scottish LibDems would rather have had them back on the streets doing community rehab. I don’t think the barman or the public would agree with them. Prison isn’t only about rehab, it’s about punishment as well and rightly so. Sometimes it’s a good idea to lock criminals up for short periods and let them see what their future holds if they don’t buck up.

  • I totally agree with malc on the example you give .Solution is that person before all those convictions that came to sweet fanny adams , should have been given a year or more in jail !

    The trouble with policies like the one above , is what I have named “the missing pages problem ! ” We or whoever puts a poilcy that is seen as leftie or perceived as softie or whatever derogatory word that can and shall be thrown at it , the other bits of the policy need to be emphasised too , because our opponents are going to distort it .

    When Norman Lamb spoke of releasing half of our prisoners , those non violent and not dangerous , for different sentences, he was correct , but he did not mention the many who are violent and dangerous , the rapists and murderers and paedophiles and such who are where they need to be !

    Actually ,some short sentences are not long enough.If Greg Mullholland , and I and all who support him on his dangerous drivers bill , gets his through , some shall be in jail longer.Say this and the new Scottish policy is a good one .Otherwise exactly what is not, to beat the SNP .

  • @malc

    I think I’d prefer they got community service and were forced to work cleaning the streets rather than sitting around for 12 weeks at tax payers expense then out again.

    The problem is the worse of a person you are the less bad an experience prison will be for you. You’d probably hate to go to prison for 12 weeks and would probably feel scared and degraded by the whole experience. But a lazy thug might not find a short prison sentence to bad at all and actually prefer sitting around for a few weeks at tax payer expense to cleaning the streets at the weekends.

    The only thing that seems really bad about what you wrote about was the 8 previous convictions; there should have come a point before 8 crimes where something serious was done, but that isn’t what this policy is about, this is about short sentences.

    This policy will be a hard sell so it’s really brave. It’s much easier to sell cannabis legalisation and tax rises to fund education than this. But I do believe this is correct although there should also I think be a policy about targeting repeat offenders who commit crimes again and again.

  • Rsf7

    Very good arguments .I in a million years would not have proposed the policy , not because it is daft , it is not , but because I want an accountable justice system , the public involved , juries for many more not less decisions , more not less spent on rehabilitation , and resposibility realised and paid for with work in oa out of prison , restorative measures and real lasting punishment for the wicked !

    Many or most non violent criminals should not be in jail.Many who are violent should be there much longer , working hard , in full time education and punishment of their wretchedness.I am a real Liberal and Democrat .I speak for the vulnerable and the victim and do so with the vast majority of our population .Put it that way and we would win !

  • Mick Taylor 14th Feb '16 - 4:55pm

    It is clearly both Liberal and just that people who commit minor offences would be better able to pay their debt to society by doing community work and taking part in restorative justice rather than going to jail. [Quite apart from the fact that jails are school for crime]. No-one has remotely suggested that violent crime should be treated in this way. It is also true that in terms of economic investment that the costs of alternatives to prison – which must be properly funded – have a much higher success rate for the investment than spending large sums in locking those minor criminals up.
    So I applaud what Willie Rennie and the Scottish Lib Dems are doing and look forward to fighting the next General Election on the same policy.

  • Ryan McAlister 14th Feb '16 - 5:20pm

    What is a “tough” community service scheme? Picking up litter? Building roads? Performing Wagner’s ring cycle outside Waverley station?

    Who are the “experts” who decide the difference between “dangerous or troubling”. Judges? Probation officers? Psychologists? TV phone in?

    Without details like that, the merit or otherwise of this “policy” is impossible to determine.

    We as a party seem to be churning out endless vacuous Press Statements recently with no detail in them. Hugely frustrating.

  • @Rsf7
    “I think I’d prefer they got community service and were forced to work cleaning the streets rather than sitting around for 12 weeks at tax payers expense then out again.”

    In some cases I’d prefer they do both. I don’t see why it has to be an either/or.

    I’ve seen the Community Payback people several times down my local park picking up litter (fairly indolently it has to be said) and it hasn’t looked like a colossal hardship to be honest – in fact there was a good deal of laughter going on.

  • The trouble with community service is that unemployed people are also expected to litter pick etc. It seems as if being unemployed is a similar crime to headbutting a barman as reported by Malc. Will they wear different colour uniform or just be assumed to be an offender?

  • @Anne
    The ones I’ve seen wear hi-vis jackets with “Community Payback” printed on them. So they’re easy to spot, as are the supervisors – they tend to be sitting in a van reading the paper. I know people who work under vastly stricter regimes.

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