TORY Justice spokesman Liam Kerr has claimed Scottish Government plans to scrap prison sentences of less than a year will lead to dangerous criminals walking the streets of Scotland.

Last year, announcing her programme for Government, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs she would look to “extend the presumption against short term sentences from three months to 12 months”.

Effectively, that would mean swapping jail time with fines, community payback orders, or making the convicted work with a social worker, or treatment programme to change offending behaviour.

Research into short prison sent- ences shows that they are ineffective in reducing reoffending.

Last year the think tank, Reform Scotland, found that prisoners inside for less than six months would often not have access to any training or rehabilitation programmes.

Their report also suggested “people given very short sentences of less than three months have a high likelihood of reoffending.”

But the Tories yesterday claimed scrapping short sentences would lead to 10,000 criminals, including murderers, wife beaters, and sex pests getting away with it.

Kerr said if the government’s presumption against short term sentences had been in place last year, then it would have seen two people convicted of homicide, 35 of sexual assault and 99 of attempted murder/serious assault walk free.

He called on the SNP to send more people to jail, not less, describing the non-custodial sentences as ineffective, with courts owed millions in outstanding fines.

Kerr said: “The SNP’s plan to abolish sentences of less than a year will let some of the most dangerous criminals off the hook. It will compound the soft-touch approach which is already making life miserable for victims of crime across Scotland.

“Had this been introduced in time for 2016/17, it would have seen people convicted of homicide, attempted murder and serious assault walk free from courts with a fine or community sentence.

“People guilty of sex attacks, handling offensive weapons and committing serious drugs offences would also have dodged prison.

“The pendulum has swung too far in favour of criminals in Scotland and away from those whose lives they’ve made a misery.

“Scotland’s justice system cannot perform the key functions of keeping the public safe, punishing, and deterring crimes under these shambolic plans.”

Scottish LibDem justice spokesperson Liam McArthur rubbished the Tory comments.

He said: “60 per cent of people given the shortest prison sentences re-offend within a year of release. By contrast, all the evidence demonstrates that robust community-based sentences are far more successful in reducing reoffending.

“It’s simple, if the Tories get their way there will be more hardened criminals and more victims of crime.

“The Scottish Tories boasted about getting their penal policy from Texas. They have zero credibility when it comes to reducing reoffending and ensuring that justice is served.”

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has previously defended the Government proposals.

In February, he said: “While prison is always necessary for serious and dangerous offenders who pose significant risk to public safety, we are committed to reducing the use of short-term imprisonment.

“Short prison sentences do little to rehabilitate people or reduce their likelihood of reoffending, and we know they can disrupt families and communities, and adversely affect employment opportunities and stable housing – the very things that evidence shows support desistance from offending.”

Scotland has the 9th largest proportional prison population in Europe.

For every 100,000 people living in Scotland, around 142 were in prison.