Nicola Sturgeon grilled over early release of rapist who murdered Esther Brown in Glasgow

By Chris McCall

Nicola Sturgeon has been pressed on why violent prisoners are allowed early release from Scottish jails following the brutal murder of Esther Brown.

The pensioner from the Woodlands area of Glasgow was killed in her own home by repeat offender Jason Graham in May this year.

The killer was yesterday jailed for a minimum of 19 years with judge Lord Armstrong branding it "the gravest of crimes".

Graham had previously been locked up for the rape of a retired nurse in 2014 but was released early on license from a seven and a half year sentence.

Douglas Ross today asked the First Minister whether her government's approach to justice was keeping the people of Scotland safe.

"After Graham was sentenced yesterday for this brutal attack and murder, one of Esther's friends said she was the type of person who would go and help anybody," the Scottish Conservatives leader said.

"First Minister, can you honestly say your government's approach to justice is keeping the people of Scotland safe?"

Sturgeon responded: "My thoughts and sympathies are with Esther Brown's family and her friends.

"Absolutely nothing I or anyone else in this chamber can say will ease the pain that family is suffering."

She added: "I cannot comment on the detail of all individual cases.

"But I think it is important to recognise in this case there will be a Significant Case Review that will assess the circumstances of the protection arrangements that were in place and the agencies involved.

"In terms of automatic early release, of course this is an issue of contention and has been for many years in this parliament.

"This government legislated back in 2016 to end the previous system of automatic release for prisoners and that could not be retrospective legislation but it was an important move to make.

"We will continue to ensure our justice system continues to protect people from criminals and ensures victims get the justice they deserve.

"But also a justice system that tries to ensure - and I'm not talking about this case when I make this point - the principles of rehabilitation and reducing reoffending are at its heart."

Tory MSP Ross claimed the case of Esther Brown was "another damning example of the glaring flaws in Scotland's justice system".

He continued: "Jason Graham was released early. He wasn't monitored properly.

"Yesterday he got 19 years - yes, a long sentence - but not nearly enough for such a horrific crime.

"This week the Scottish Government launched a consultation proposing that violent criminals could get out after just six or seven years.

"The document suggests long-term prisoners could be considered for release after a just a third of their sentence."

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