Four out of five respondents have backed the Scottish Conservatives’ plan to give judges the option of a Whole Life Custody for the very worst criminals.
Of 225 responses to the consultation to the private members’ bill, 180 were fully or partially supportive of the proposals.
Their concerns were raised at First Minister’s Questions today by Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw.
They include testimony from Linda McDonald – who was brutally attacked by previously convicted killer Robbie McIntosh while he was out on day release.
In her consultation response she wrote, “Whole life sentences give justice for victims and families who have suffered at the hands of these violent, sick, dangerous criminals. It gives reassurance that the public are safe. Gives us confidence that life means the whole of their life…If dangerous killers are not given a second chance, and released, they cannot get the opportunity to kill again.”
The reform would allow courts to hand out sentences to prevent the worst criminals from ever being released from prison.
At FMQs, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon insisted that judges already have the power to keep the worst criminals behind bars for the rest of their life.
But case law currently restricts judges’ ability to set long punishment parts. HM Advocate v Boyle was clear that an offender who murders a child or police officer should get no more than around 20 years. If a judge tried to set a deliberately overlong sentence, it would be struck down by an appeal court.
The Scottish Conservatives will now be seeking to push the Whole Life Custody (Scotland) Bill through the Scottish Parliament in order to deliver genuine justice for victims.
Jackson Carlaw, Scottish Conservative leader said:
“Violent crime in Scotland has risen by 10% in just one year and is now at its highest level for seven years.
“Police officers, prison officers and victims have all backed our proposal.
“But not Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.
“It’s a simple choice. Whose rights do you put first – the rights of the victims of crime or those of the criminal.
“We choose to put victims first. It is time the First Minister and her government did the same.”
Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary said:
“Life should mean life, and victims, police officers, prison officers and criminal justice social workers agree.
“As these respondents say, the victims of these awful crimes should not face a lifetime of anxiety and attendance at parole hearings.
“Giving judges the power to sentence someone to a whole life behind bars provides a deterrent for criminals and reassurance for victims and the public – the most dangerous criminals will never be let out of jail to cause further suffering.
“Too often victims have been let down by the SNP’s soft touch justice – only the Scottish Conservatives will bring back honesty in sentencing.”