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SNP continues to ignore victims’ voices

The Scottish Conservatives have condemned the SNP for continuing to ignore victims’ voices in the justice process, and particularly on Temporary Release.

In the Scottish Parliament today, Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary highlighted that the Michelle’s Law campaign was launched over 8 months ago and yet the SNP has made very little progress to include victims in the process of temporary release.

The family of Michelle Stewart has also written to the justice secretary expressing their dismay that so little progress has been made, and their anger about ongoing confusion between various parts of the justice system regarding their case.

Mr Kerr went on to demand that the SNP government honour their promise to Michelle Stewart’s family and deliver:

  • A specific requirement for the prison service to take victim welfare into account
  • Published reasons for release decisions
  • Representations in person for victims and their families and more use of exclusion zones

 

Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary said:

“The Stewart family is not alone – hundreds of victims and their families are being ignored by the SNP.

“It is a scandal that, even now, the Stewart family is still being given inaccurate and contradictory information.

“The Justice Secretary keeps promising action, but we have seen nothing on Temporary Release.

“The SNP must make this a priority and include victims’ voices throughout our justice system immediately.”

Ends

 Notes to editors:

The text of Liam Kerr’s question in the Scottish Parliament is as follows –

Presiding Officer, it has been now been over 8 months – 36 weeks to the day in fact – since the SNP Justice Secretary promised “concrete action” on Temporary Release during my Members’ Debate on Michelle’s Law.

And in that time there has been zero action from the SNP Government. Indeed, I have a copy of the letter the Stewart Family has just written to the Justice Secretary saying that, despite his promises, they have had no updates, and they are still encountering confusion and miscommunication.

 “Information and support” are not enough - when will the Cabinet Secretary honour his promise to Michelle Stewart’s family and deliver:

  • A specific requirement for the prison service to take victim welfare into account
  • Published reasons for release decisions
  • Representations in person for victims and their families and more use of exclusion zones

The full text of the letter from the Stewart family is below –

 

Dear Mr Yousaf

It has been some time since we have had any update from you with regards to Michelle's Law.

We recently met with the Head of Criminal Justice and also Head of Legal Services at South Ayrshire Council to discuss John Wilson being rehoused within South Ayrshire.  During that meeting the Head of Criminal Justice argued with us that John Wilson has not and never has been in Ayr as she would know as it was within her remit.

Now you may recall at our meeting in August last year at which Tom Fox from the Scottish Prison Service was present, when we raised concerns about having heard he was in Ayr High Street, Mr Fox confirmed this but could not disclose the reasons why he was there due to confidentiality.  He also confirmed that 2 plain clothed wardens were in close proximity to him.  It is very concerning to hear that the Head of Criminal Justice of South Ayrshire Council was not aware of this but also to outright tell us we were wrong.  I have contacted Mr Fox direct about this and await his response. 

However, as Justice Minister and due to reasons we have highlighted previously about successful monitoring of him when he is released I thought it is something you may wish to know about as it only confirms to me that as much as the system works on paper it does not work in practice.

I would like to know why the Head of Criminal Justice did not know that John Wilson was in Ayr and who is responsible for that decision.

We are now a year away from when John Wilsons case will be prepared to be ready to submit for parole.  We are now further forward to having had any sort of assurance from you with regards to him not being released back to the Ayrshire area.  You have previously stated that is a matter for the local authority, however they are required to work within the legislation set by the Scottish Government.  However you as well as Parole Scotland do have the power to make that decision to relocate him.  We are 17 months away from having to encounter Michelle's murderer on a regular basis.  You have no idea the impact the thought of that is having on us just now never mind this time next year.

On a daily basis Mr Yousaf, I have flashbacks of Michelle lying on the pavement, lifeless, a large gaping stab wound visible on her chest, blood pouring from the 10 stab wounds inflicted on her and her blue eyes staring straight ahead lifeless, Kenneth doing everything he could do to try and bring her back to life, without success.  Then not to be able to get near her at hospital due to forensic requirements.  Not only was a post mortem required on Michelle but John Wilsons defence also had the right, which they took, to do a post mortem. You have no idea the further pain and anguish that caused - not only had he stabbed her 10 times, he had a legal right to have her cut open again! I do note the change in the law on this thankfully and not before time. 

As stated previously we need to live with what he done to Michelle for the rest of our lives.  We also need to live the rest of our lives without Michelle in it.  John Wilson has the rest of his life ahead of him, to forget what he done to Michelle.  He has never shown any remorse.  It is not too much to ask that he be relocated out with any proximity of Ayrshire.

Did you take the time to read the comments from the petition I passed to you signed by over 5000 people most of whom live within Ayrshire?  The majority of the would be considered a threat to his safety.  Will the petition and the feelings of the Ayrshire people be taken into account.

We would be grateful for a commitment from you that John Wilson will not be released back into our lives.

Yours sincerely,

The Stewart Family

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