Risk posed by criminals released early was wrongly calculated, minister admits
Scotland’s Justice Secretary has admitted hundreds of criminals may now be out of prison despite the risk they pose to the public being wrongly calculated.
The risk posed by convicted criminals – used in deciding whether they can be released early – is being wrongly calculated because of an IT system error, Keith Brown told MSPs.
Mr Brown said there are 285 “open cases” of criminals who had their “risk score” wrongly calculated, with 115 cases yet to be checked to see if they may have been wrongly let out of prison or are under consideration for early release.
The admission today there are potentially hundreds of cases where the risk for assessing that danger was wrong will and should be a source of grave concern to us all
In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Mr Brown said the Scottish Government is not aware of “any risk to the public from anybody being released when they shouldn’t be”, but that checks are still being carried out.
“There are 150 different cases which have come back with no public protection issues whatsoever,” Mr Brown said.
The Level of Service and Case Management (LSCMI) system, which is used by the 32 local authorities and the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), was centralised on 22 November 2021 and uses assessments to calculate the risk posed by criminals, particularly those with a history of reoffending.
It is used to inform criminal justice social work reports to court parole boards for the purpose of release, and the Scottish Prison Service to inform risk management team decisions about progression.
Of the 24,000 open cases on the system, Mr Brown said 13,117 scores “did not match” the correct risk level identified by assessments.
There are also 1,037 closed cases affected by the error, although 537 of those have manually been corrected.
All social workers have now been asked to review all their open cases, with priority given to those where there is “imminent consideration of release from prison”, Mr Brown said.
He added that social workers in the justice sector have also been told to move to a paper-based system immediately.
Mr Brown said: “I do have confidence in the professionalism of our Justice and Health professionals who every day manage changing and evolving risk across a range of offenders.
“As has been explained, LSCMI will never be the sole determinant of how the justice system deals with the risk of an individual – there is much more by way of judgment and process involved and will often involve a range of multi-disciplinary professionals, who are never just following what is displayed on the system.”
Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Jamie Greene said the statement “could not be more stark or actually shocking”, and added: “These are vital systems they use to score criminals and their risk to the public before they are released early.
“So the admission today that there are potentially hundreds of cases where the risk for assessing that danger was wrong will and should be a source of grave concern to us all.”
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