Bid for life to mean life follows anger over Paige Doherty's killer

A proposal to give judges the power to hand down sentences that would see Scotland's worst killers die in jail is to be launched in the Scottish Parliament.

Tory leader Ruth Davidson said her party would bring forward a member’s bill to introduce whole life tariffs following outrage caused by a cut in the jail term served by the killer of the murdered schoolgirl Paige Doherty.

Earlier this month judges at the Appeal Court in Edinburgh reduced the 27 year sentence originally imposed on John Leatham to 23-years.

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Leatham admitted killing the 15-year-old in a frenzied knife attack when she stopped for a breakfast roll at his Delicious Deli in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, on March 19 last year.

He was given a mandatory life sentence at the High Court in Glasgow in October and ordered to spend at least 27 years behind bars, but then launched an appeal.

Ruth Davidson brought his case to the attention of Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions. In the past the Scottish Government has resisted giving judges the power to hand down sentences where criminals are told they will remain in prison until death.

Ms Sturgeon said she had met with Paige Doherty’s mother.

“There are no words to express the pain and grief her family had gone through,” the First Minister said. “This was a decision of an independent judge in a court of law. We have an independent judiciary in this country. As well as being First Minister I am a human being and there are many occasions where I look at decisions of courts and wish different decisions had been reached. But I respect the independence of the judiciary.”

Ms Davidson said: “As it stands, our judges do not have the tool of a whole life tariff at their disposal and we say they should. We can sit in this parliament and wring our hands and we can express outrage every time something like this happens or we can do something about it.

“I want to do something about it. If the Scottish Government won’t act, I can say the Scottish Conservatives today will do so by pushing ahead with a member’s bill making the case for the introduction of full life sentencing in Scotland. We need to stand up for families who see sentences for murder cut less than a year after they have been handed down. We should change the law so that families like Paige Doherty’s feel that the law is tipping back in their favour and that the worst criminals are kept off the streets forever. We have waited too long. Isn’t it time we all acted?”

The member’s bill is to be proposed by Conservative justice spokesman Douglas Ross.

Ms Sturgeon she would always consider proposals for change that are evidence based, but are consistent with European Court of Human Rights.

The First Minister said: “We will continue to consider openly and frankly any changes that are considered to be appropriate.”