Criminals in Scotland are being “wrapped in cotton wool”, with victims waiting years for justice, it has been claimed.
The Scottish Conservatives hit out at the Scottish Government’s record on violent crime ahead of a debate on the issue at Holyrood on Wednesday.
And the party has called for backing to be given to their ‘Victims Bill’, which is seeking to “overhaul” the Scottish justice system.
Amongst the changes the Bill would bring about would the abolition of the not proven verdict in Scotland.
It would also allow all victims of crime to make a victim statement in court.
Official figures were highlighted by the Scottish Conservatives showing a rise in the number of violent crimes in 2021/2021, with 9842 recorded.
The Conservatives have also criticised proposals to bring forward the point at which short-term prisoners are automatically released.
And they took aim at the Government over Police Scotland funding and a reduction in officer numbers.
The party’s justice spokesman Jamie Greene insisted that victims should “never be treated as an afterthought”.
“The SNP Government have spent the last 15 years eroding our justice system with their soft-touch policies – and now, more than ever, people are feeling the consequences,” said Greene.
“Violent crime in Scotland has reached its highest level in a decade, the human cost of which is being felt by thousands of victims who have been let down by SNP broken promises.
“Instead of standing up for the victims of crime, the SNP Government would rather ensure that criminals are either kept out of prison completely or automatically released having served just a fraction of their sentence.
“While criminals are wrapped in cotton wool, victims are having to wait years for justice as they are passed through Scotland’s shamefully backlogged court system.”
Greene added: “Victims should never be treated like an afterthought in our justice system but that’s the reality under the SNP.
“The Scottish Conservatives would ensure that criminals are always properly punished, as well as putting victims’ needs first with our Victims Bill.”
Justice secretary Keith Brown defended the Scottish Government’s record on tackling crime.
“Recorded crime is at one of the lowest levels since 1974 and is down 41% since the Government took office,” he said.
“Over the long term, there has been a 36% reduction in police-recorded non-sexual violent crime. Homicide cases are at their lowest level since comparable records began back in 1976.
“The proportion of adults experiencing crime has decreased, with adults in Scotland less likely to have experienced crime than those in England and Wales during 2019/20.
Brown continued: “The Scottish Government is making a total investment of over £3.1bn in 2022-23 to further strengthen and reform vital services across the justice sector – which includes £53.2m for justice Covid recovery and almost £1.4bn specifically for Police Scotland.
“Officer numbers remain favourable relative to elsewhere in the UK with around 32 officers per 10,000 of the population in Scotland compared to around only 23 officers per 10,000 of the population in England and Wales.
“We are also providing £48m over the next three years to victims’ organisations as part of our commitment to putting victims at the heart of the justice system.”
He added: “Our new vision for the justice sector enshrines key priorities including ensuring victims’ voices are heard, placing women and children at the heart of service delivery and reassessing the role that prisons and the use of imprisonment should play.
“The new vision is based on international evidence on what we know works to reduce crime. Our approach to justice is underpinned by a commitment to public protection and victim safety.”