Victims of crime may be allowed to observe parole hearings in Scotland, under proposed changes to the process of releasing prisoners.
Those who are registered with the victim notification scheme would have a specific procedure allowing them to view the proceedings, according to new regulations which are being proposed to MSPs at Holyrood.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the changes will improve transparency and understanding of the parole system.
Other proposed changes include arrangements for the Parole Board to publish redacted summaries of their decisions on the release of prisoners.
Mr Yousaf said: “Parole is an important part of most modern criminal justice systems in Scotland, providing a clear evidence-based framework for determining whether and when someone who has been serving a long-term prison sentence should be returned to the community.
“We made a commitment to simplify and modernise the provisions around parole and these regulations are a step in this direction.”
He continued: “I have listened to the experiences of victims and their families, and this has only reinforced my conviction that victims’ needs must be at the centre of the criminal justice system.
“Importantly, that includes ensuring they have better information, increased involvement and greater support ahead of prison release decisions. I hope these changes will help victims and families bereaved by crime.
“Parole Board for Scotland members do a difficult and complex job which requires careful judgement and expertise in assessing risk.
“By ensuring openness and transparency, I believe we can strengthen public confidence in an already fair and robust system which recognises the need to provide opportunities for rehabilitation and reintegration.”
Colin Spivey, chief executive of the Parole Board for Scotland, said: “This is an important step towards more openness.
“There is more to be done and we look forward to working with the government and victims organisations to ensure that there is the necessary support in place and to further develop and improve the experience of victims in the parole process.”