NICOLA Sturgeon has admitted the system for notifying victims of crime about the impending release of their attackers from prison is “not good enough”.

At FMQs, the First Minister accepted there were problems after Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross told her less than 1 per cent of victims had been told about imminent releases.

Only 37 victims out of 4,500 cases involving criminals sentenced to less than 18 months in jail had been informed, Mr Ross said, despite some involving violent and sexual assault.

Mr Ross accused the Scottish Government of breaking a string of promises on the issue, and claimed the justice system was “stacked against victims”.

It followed Mr Ross asking Ms Sturgeon about action to help victims of crime on the day Holyrood held a minute’s silence to remember all the women killed by men this year. 

Citing his figures on victims being told of offender release, Mr Ross said: “Less than 1% of these victims know when that criminal who ruined their live is going to get out.

“How can women who suffered the most horrific crimes, and their families, feel safe when they are being kept in the dark about the release of dangerous offenders?

“They have no idea if they will be walking down the street in their own community and come face to face with their attacker. 

“The justice system is stacked against victims; we have to change.”

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon's approval rating tumbles in YouGov poll

He asked Ms Sturgeon when her Government would “finally take the action desperately needed to keep women safe from these crimes?”

She said it was not a “fair representation” to say the justice system was stacked against victims, but added: “I do think it is the case that the justice system, like all parts of our society, has to change to respond better to the needs of women who are subject to violence.

“It is the case that the Government is taking forward a range of changes and reforms, because some of what Douglas Ross has cited is not good enough - victim notification is one of those areas.”

However she said “these are often complex reforms that have to be done properly in order that our overall justice system is performing in the way we want it to”.

She added: “There are few issues that I care more passionately about than doing everything possible to keep women in our society safe from the violence that too often women are subjected to. There is more we need to do, there is more we are doing, and it is something I take extremely seriously.”

Mr Ross also raised the case of 17-year-old Michelle Stewart, who was murdered in Ayrshire in 2008, and whose family have campaigned for greater transparency on offender release.

Michelle’s sister, Lisa Stewart, recently complained her family had no warning if killer John Wilson would be in their local area.

The Stewart family have called for a “Michelle’s Law”, with exclusion zones designed to keep killers away from the families of their victims. 

Mr Ross said the family had been told earlier this year that changes to the tagging and GPS monitoring of offenders after release would be implemented before the end of November.

He said: “This was a promise made to a family that have gone through the worst of circumstances that none of us can imagine, and, with less than a week to go, it sounds like that promise is not going to be kept.”

READ MORE: Tom Gordon - SNP members deserve an explanation over Cambo

Ms Sturgeon suggested the Covid pandemic may have got in the way of the reform.

She said: “I don’t want to say definitively that this is the case here, but everybody in this chamber knows that certain commitments, certain strands of work have unavoidably been affected by what we’ve been dealing with collectively over the past two years.”

She added: “These are important measures we need to continue to take and keep our minds open to taking in order we do all we can to keep women safe, to ensure that those who do commit acts of violence against women are brought to justice, and to deal much more effectively in future than society has done in the past with the underlying causes of violence against women, which is the behaviour of some men in our society.”

Mr Ross said later: “It is the first task of government to keep the public safe – and the SNP Government is failing on that front. The broken promises to victims of crime are mounting. 

“The Stewart family have asked for updates on the progress of Michelle’s Law because the SNP have dragged their heels instead of acting.

“The First Minister dodged answering if a key promise to the Stewart family over the tagging and GPS monitoring of serious and violent criminals would be met.

“The SNP routinely leave victims in the dark about where criminals end up and when they will be let out. The SNP’s soft-touch justice system is stacked against victims.”