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 have therefore published a proposal for 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: https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/111685.aspx
The public consultation closed on 30 August 2019. All responses (excluding those 'not for publication') can be found below.