No victims of crime have been permitted to attend at parole board hearings – despite changes aimed at providing more “transparency” within the system.
Changes introduced in March 2021 allowed victims and their family members to request the right to attend at the hearings, where parole board members consider if an offender can be released.
However, a Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Conservatives revealed that while 26 victims had requested to attend, none of them had been granted permission.
Even if they had been allowed to attend meetings, they would have to be “silent observers”, with the then justice secretary Humza Yousaf explaining last year that allowing them to speak would require changes to be made to primary legislation.
Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Jamie Greene branded the situation as “yet another example of the criminal being put ahead of the victim in the SNP’s soft-touch justice system”.
Bosses at the Parole Board are said to be monitoring the Covid situation and the “observation of a hearing is expected to proceed as soon as it is considered safe to do so”.
Greene said the Tories would now push to introduce legislation at Holyrood which would allow victims to “have their voices heard when criminals are considered for release”.
Speaking about the move to allow victims into parole hearing, Greene said: “This proposal was intended to increase transparency for victims of crime – but has turned into just another broken promise from the SNP on victims’ rights.
“This scheme, while a small step in the right direction, was nowhere near enough from the outset.
“Yet now we find out that the SNP cannot even deliver this basic right for the victims of crime.
“The Scottish Conservatives’ proposed Victims Law will put victims at the heart of Scotland’s justice system by empowering them to have their voices heard when criminals are considered for release.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Parole Board continue to monitor the Covid situation and observation of a hearing is expected to proceed as soon as it is considered safe to do so and the necessary supports are in place.
“We continue to take forward measures to improve victims’ rights. For instance, we amended the Parole Board rules so that a victim’s safety and security can be taken into account by the Board, a victim can receive a copy of the Board’s decision and that decision can now be published.”