System ill-prepared to deliver justice

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Our judicial system regularly throws up practices and sentences which offend against justice and common sense, and it is a welcome sign that Sheriff Katherine Mackie appears to agree.

Ex-MSP Bill Walker was convicted of 24 separate serious offences against four victims in four towns over 28 years. The sheriff, in rightly distinguishing between each event, judged that they merited a total of 14 years in jail, but was obliged to impose no more than a derisory one year (the maximum permitted under “summary” proceedings). In practice, due to our equally ludicrous “automatic early release” provisions, this will mean six months or even less.

Clearly, more prisons are needed, so that in both “summary” and “solemn” court proceedings, a far greater use is made of consecutive, rather than concurrent, sentences for serial acts of criminality, particularly of violence.

When Michael Howard was home secretary, he was pilloried by judges, opposition politicians and the BBC for wanting parliament to set minimum sentences for 
certain crimes.

Maybe they could now agree to that, if parliament were also to legislate for judges to have no upper limit on their sentencing decisions, which would of course remain subject to appeal court review.

John Birkett

Horseleys Park

St Andrews, Fife