Life Should Mean Life

In Scotland, courts cannot ensure that the worst criminals are never released from prison.

After serving the minimum number of years fixed by the court, an offender who was supposedly sentenced to ‘life’ is automatically considered for release by the Parole Board. For instance, current sentencing guidelines state that someone who murders a child or a police officer will be eligible for release after around 20 years in prison.

It is my ambition to give Scottish judges the same power that is afforded to their counterparts south of the border – the ability to put the worst criminals behind bars for the rest of their lives.

As well as serving the purposes of public safety, punishment and deterrence, prison should rehabilitate most offenders. But some crimes are so appalling that those who commit them will never be fit for release and reintroduction into society.

Presently, Scotland’s justice system fails to provide the penalty of whole life custody. Imprisonment may happen to last the rest of an offender’s life because they are either elderly or sick, but this is not a guarantee. It is an arbitrary system that turns on the individual characteristics of the offender rather than the seriousness of the crime they have committed.

I am therefore bringing forward a consultation on a Member's Bill which would give Scottish courts the power to impose a 'Whole Life Custody' sentence for Scotland’s worst criminals.

You can read my consultation document here:

If you would like to send me your views on my proposal, the quickest and most efficient way is to respond via the online survey here:

Responding by other means is discouraged, but you can send your response to the survey questions via email (as an attached MS Word document, rather than in the body of the email) to:

Responses prepared in hard copy should preferably be scanned and sent as an attachment the above email address, or otherwise sent by post to Liam Kerr MSP, Room 3.16, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, EH99 1SP

If you are submitting a response by e-mail or hard copy, please include a written confirmation that you have read and understood the Privacy Notice (see consultation document). You may also contact my office by telephone on 0131 348 6973.

All responses should be received no later than 30 August 2019.

I look forward to hearing from you.