SNP urged to bring in whole life sentences for Scotland

Whole life sentences should be introduced into Scotland as part of the response to serious violent crime, the Scottish Conservatives have said.

Russell Findlay MSP has called for the introduction of whole life sentences in Scotland
Russell Findlay MSP has called for the introduction of whole life sentences in Scotland

The call comes after the harrowing murder of Sarah Everard who was abducted while walking home in London and murdered by a serving police officer, Wayne Couzens.

Couzens received a whole life sentence, meaning he will never be considered for release by the English courts system, when he was sentenced to jail at the end of last month.

The judge said the abuse of his position as a police officer as part of his crime was a contributing factor to his sentence.

That murder, alongside last week’s conviction of George Metcalff for the murder of Patricia Henry which he committed in Girvan in 2017, has sparked the Conservatives to repeat a call they made during the last session of parliament.

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Russell Findlay, the party’s community safety spokesperson, said it was time to introduce whole life sentences in Scotland as soon as possible.

He said: “It is entirely right for a judge to have the power to impose a whole life sentence on the police officer who murdered Sarah Everard, meaning that he will never be released.

“If a similar crime occurred in Scotland, a judge would not be allowed to make the same decision.

“Life really should mean life for Scotland’s most dangerous criminals. Our proposals would ensure judges could guarantee victims, and wider society, that they would stay locked up.

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“Other parties previously rejected this Scottish Conservative proposals but I hope they will now re-think their opposition and work with me to introduce this crucial sentencing option as a matter of urgency.

“All too often the SNP let down victims and put the interest of criminals first. The Scottish Conservatives will continue to push for whole life sentences to be imposed to ensure the worst offenders feel the full force of the law.”

While whole life orders are not available to judges in Scotland, judges can hand down a long minimum sentence before a prisoner is considered for parole.

There is no guarantee that after this period of time the individual will successfully be released on parole.

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Judges also have the power to set a period of time in jail which is likely to “exceed the remainder of the prisoner’s natural life” which often has the effect of a whole life sentence.

Keith Brown, the justice secretary, told Holyrood last week that he believed judges in Scotland have the powers they need to ensure dangerous criminals are given appropriate sentences.

He told MSPs: “We believe that the courts in Scotland have the ability to hand down appropriate sentences, especially in cases as grave as that which has been mentioned.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson added: “For those that commit the most heinous crimes, it is already the case that Scots law allows the criminal courts to keep offenders in custody for the rest of their life.

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"These exceptional powers have been in place for use by Scotland’s most senior judges in the High Court since the early 2000’s and the Scottish Government fully supports courts having these powers.

"The use of such powers is appropriately for the independent court to determine on a case by case basis.”

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