Scottish Conservatives to bring forward bill to introduce whole-life sentences

Written by Jenni Davidson on 24 February 2017 in News

The Scottish Conservatives have said they will bring a private members bill for whole-life sentences following Paige Docherty killer’s appeal

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson - Image credit: Parliament TV

The Scottish Conservatives are to bring a private members bill calling for whole-life sentences, Conservative leader Ruth Davidson revealed during First Ministers Questions yesterday.

The call for longer sentences follows the Paige Doherty killer John Leathem’s successful appeal earlier this month, resulting in his sentence being reduced from 27 years to 23 years.

Commenting on the exchange during FMQs, Davidson said it was “unacceptable” that Doherty’s family should go through the ordeal of seeing his sentence reduced .

She said: “The First Minister acknowledged this was a fair issue to raise.

“The question for her SNP government is why it has spent 10 years doing nothing about it.

“It’s entirely unacceptable that, less than a year after watching her killer get locked up, Paige Doherty’s family should go through the ordeal if seeing him reduce his sentence, on the flawed basis he’s not as bad a killer as others.

“Of course it is right to point out we should uphold the independence of the judiciary.

“But it is also the case that the parliament makes law and the Scottish Government sets the framework under which our judges operate.

“That’s why there has to be change.

“A system which cuts a child murderer’s sentence because he’s deemed not as bad as others is rightly seen by most people as a disgrace.

“So if the SNP won’t act then we will, by pushing ahead with a member’s bill making the case for the introduction of whole-life sentencing in Scotland.

“Whole-life sentences are a tool that judges should have at their disposal. As it stands, in Scotland, they do not.”

Responding to the Scottish Conservative leader’s question in the chamber, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “My heart breaks for the family of Paige Doherty”.

She added that she had “no difficulty” understanding the sentiments of the Justice for Paige campaign, which had called the decision “heartbreaking” and said it “serves no justice to Paige and her family”.

However, the First Minister highlighted the importance of the independence of the judiciary in sentencing decisions, although hinted that on a personal level, she may not have agreed with it.

Sturgeon said: “As well as being the First Minister, I am a human being and there are many occasions when I look at decisions of courts and wish that different decisions had been reached.

“It may well be that this is such a case.

“However, I respect the independence of the judiciary. I do not think that any member—including Ruth Davidson—would expect me to interfere with such decisions.”

She responded to Davidson’s call for whole-life sentence by saying that the Sentencing Council should consider “any matter that it thinks appropriate” and that she would be happy for it to consider the Conservative leader’s proposal.

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