AN EFFECTIVE justice system is a key pillar of any free society and is something in which it is vital the public have full confidence.

But in 2022, I am surely not alone in doubting whether the Scottish public can have full confidence in the soft-touch justice system they find themselves with.

Because as it stands, the Scottish justice system is all too often prioritising the rights of criminals over the rights of victims.

For example, all prisoners sentenced to less than four years are automatically released halfway through their sentence.

And despite committing to end this practice of automatic early release, Nicola Sturgeon has now said this will only happen if certain conditions are met.

Consequently, anyone serving a sentence of less than four years spends an average of just 137 days in prison. And this is only set to get worse, with the SNP government now moving to automatically release criminals when they've served just a third of their sentence.

Add to this the fact that some violent criminals have been handed the right to vote in Scottish elections, and it is clear that the term 'soft-touch justice' is not merely hype but is a stark reality; a reality that is driving many Scots to lose faith in the justice system altogether.

When governments decide to pursue ill-informed strategies, it can sometimes take years before the damaging effects of these policies becomes clear. But with the SNP's soft-touch approach to justice, such effects are precisely what we are now witnessing.

We recently learned that violent crime has now risen to the highest level since Nicola Sturgeon became first minister, and we know that incidents of domestic abuse are now sitting at a 20-year high.

Not only this, but needless disputes between the Scottish Government and the legal profession are causing delays to domestic abuse court cases, which is preventing many victims from receiving justice.

As it stands, the justice system is failing victims across Scotland. A fresh approach is required – an approach focused on getting tough on crime and putting victims at the heart of our justice system.

And thankfully, there are proposals coming to the Scottish Parliament in the near future that will do exactly this.

The Scottish Conservatives' Victim's Law would scrap the Not Proven verdict from Scots' Law, ending this historical anomaly and the confusion it causes for victims.

This Bill would also allow victims to request exclusion zones when criminals are released from prison, ensuring they wouldn't face the trauma of encountering the criminal in their own community.

My party is also proposing the introduction of a Domestic Abuse Register, to ensure abusive criminals are no longer able to move in and out of different communities while keeping their violent past a secret, and to create a true deterrent to those who would commit this horrific crime.

Only through ambitious measures such as these, alongside a commitment to ensure criminals serve the sentence they deserve, can the Scottish public have a justice system they can be proud of. And just as with any other free society, that is the very least they deserve.