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'Suzanne's Law' parole reform to be explored

David Anderson/Holyrood

'Suzanne's Law' parole reform to be explored

Failure to disclose the location of a victim’s body could be taken into account before releasing prisoners, Scottish Government says

Convicted murderers who refuse to tell authorities the location of their victims' remains could be refused parole under proposals from the Scottish Government. 

The Transforming Parole in Scotland consultation process will explore how greater use of electronic monitoring of released prisoners, as well as other measures, could be used.

Often referred to as 'Suzanne's Law', after Suzanne Pilley who was killed in Argyll in 2010 by David Gilroy, but whose body has never been found, the consultation proposes a prisoner’s failure to disclose the location of a victim’s body could be taken into account when deciding whether or not to grant parole.

Other actions in the consultation analysis report published today include exploring options for victim attendance at parole hearings; incorporating specific criteria into the Parole Board rules for matters that may be taken into account relating to the safety and welfare of victims and their families; and ensuring that licence conditions are fully explained to prisoners before they are released and that they understand the consequences of breaching their conditions. 

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The parole process is a vital element of our criminal justice system. It supports the safe rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners – in turn helping to reduce the risk of reoffending and keep our communities safe.

“Scotland has a fair and robust parole system, but I know from listening to victims and their families that they can feel left out of parole cases which have affected their lives. There was clear support in this consultation for greater victim involvement in the parole process and for their safety and welfare to be explicitly taken into account.

"These changes, including the increased use of exclusion zones, will help victims and families bereaved by crime to feel included, listened to and better protected. 

"At the same time, I hope they will help prisoners to better understand the steps undertaken when they are eligible for parole, as well as the consequences of breaching a parole licence."

John Watt, chair of the Parole Board for Scotland, said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s response to the Transforming Parole in Scotland consultation.

"We look forward to working quickly and constructively with the Scottish Government and other organisations to deliver the actions in the report."

Kate Wallace, chief executive of Victim Support Scotland, said: “It is important that our parole process is fully transparent in a way that supports the needs of victims.

"We welcome this announcement which includes the introduction of Suzanne’s Law, which families who have been bereaved by crime have been campaigning for and can have an impact on Parole Board decisions.

"This is an important step in improving the criminal justice system, protecting those affected by crime, as well as reducing reoffending.

"Victim’s voices need to be heard through all stages of the criminal justice process. By improving information sharing and increasing the involvement of victims in the parole process, we are ensuring that our justice system is focussed on the needs of those impacted by crimes across the country."

The Parole Board for Scotland is a non-departmental public body that makes recommendations on the release of prisoners back into the community on licence.

Decisions are based on a risk assessment process. In deciding to release a prisoner, the Parole Board has to be satisfied that the prisoner no longer poses a risk to the public.

However, it is not the responsibility of the Parole Board to consider questions of punishment and deterrence, which lie with the courts.



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