Statement on emergency release of prisoners

Victim Support Scotland is extremely concerned about Scottish Government plans for the emergency release of prisoners.

16 May, 2024

Kate Wallace, Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland said:

“We are extremely concerned about Scottish Government plans for the emergency release of prisoners, having only had this confirmed today.

“The motivation for this is the current highest ever prison populations, and the crisis that these figures bring. In essence though, the experience of the last time this was done in Scotland shows that we are only transferring this crisis to reoffending, drug deaths and further pressure on support services.

“Victim Support Scotland’s primary concern is victim safety. We anticipate that many people whose perpetrator is currently in prison, will be concerned that they will be released and negatively impact on their day-to-day lives and safety.

“When this happened before, over 40% of prisoners reoffended within a six-month period with this usually measured over a year. This is worryingly high and has the potential to create a whole new raft of victims.

“Perpetrators of domestic abuse and people on the sex offender’s register are excluded from release plans, but we need to understand more fully the selection criteria for release. Importantly, we welcome the Governor’s veto, which VSS lobbied strongly for during the Bail and Release from Custody Act, and which will come into force for prisoners who may be considered eligible.

“Rumours about emergency release plans have been rife for some time now, and only confirmed today with little notice. Surely we could have spent that time planning for this and taking into account victims’ views? We worry that the Scottish Government has seriously underestimated the negative impact this will have on victim confidence in the justice system.

“We will continue to work closely with the Scottish Government and victim support organisations to do all we can to ensure that victims are safe, informed, and supported.

“As Scotland’s national victim support organisation, I want people to know that they can phone us on 0800 160 1985 and we’ll do our best to help.”