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Prisons early release questioned

AN SNP plan to end automatic early release for some prisoners is being questioned by a Holyrood committee.

The proposal affects sex offenders sentenced to four years or more and other dangerous offenders jailed for at least 10 years.

Conservatives have already warned the revision to the rules still means people sentenced to less than four years qualify to get out after serving half their sentence. Of the 14,748 offenders sentenced last year, 97% were given a term of less than four years.

Christine Grahame, the SNP convener of Holyrood's Justice Committee, said she wants to know why some prisoners and not others would be covered by the changes.

"We want to hear from criminal justice social workers, representatives from the judiciary, penal reform and victims' organisations, the Scottish Prison Service, the Parole Board for Scotland as well as relevant academics and members of the public about their views on this important public safety issue," she said.

The limited scrapping of automatic early release from jail was announced by the Scottish Government last year. The first steps affect violent prisoners serving 10 years or more for offences such as culpable homicide, attempted murder, serious assault and robbery.

It also applies to sexual offences such as rape, sexual assault and sexual offences against children when a prisoner is serving four years or more.

The Justice Committee will look into the proposals during scrutiny of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill later this month.

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