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End of early release for long-term prisoners

Offenders serving more than four years will no longer have their sentence automatically reduced.

Offenders jailed for serious offences will no longer be automatically released on license after two thirds of their sentence, the Scottish First Minister has said.

Scotland's current system of automatic early release for all offenders serving more than four years is set to end when the Prisoners (Control of Relese) Bill is passed by parliament, in order to tackle those who commit the most serious crimes.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "Prison remains the most appropriate place for serious offenders. Every prisoner serving a sentence of four years or more will remain in jail for much longer than is currently the case if deemed necessary by the Parole Board."

She added that a guaranteed period of supervision would be put in place for prisoners guilty of serious offences, to aid their rehabilitation back into the community.

"The safety of the public is an absolute priority of this government, and we have made significant progress in recent years, with an additional 1,000 police officers on our streets and recorded crime now at its lowest level in 40 years.

"But we are not complacent, and we recognise that tough action is required to tackle those offenders who commit the most serious crimes, ensuring that communities are kept safe while at the same time making efforts to reduce the likelihood of reoffending."

Her announcement follows Justice Secretary Michael Matheson's decision to scrap plans for a female prison in Inverclyde and instead invest a  further £1.5 million in smaller community projects designed to stop reoffending.

Susan Gallagher, Acting Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland, said that both announcements were to be welcomed.

"For those of us who live in all of the communities in which we work, this should be viewed as a step closer to achieving a system in which sentences are straightforward and understandable to the victim and those communities," she said.

"We also support the guarantee of post-release supervision for prisoners, as we recognise the significant role played by community supervision, not only in facilitating enhanced reintegration into the community, but also in supporting offenders to desist from further offending."