A legal loophole that allowed two notorious sex criminals to challenge their sentences has been closed.
Rapist Robert Foye and paedophile Morris Petch were able to lodge appeals against the punishment part of their sentences because of an anomaly that allowed convicts with life sentences to apply for parole earlier than those on fixed-length terms.
The Criminal Cases (Punishment and Review) Bill will also allow the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) to publish documents that led to an appeal being granted, even if the appeal is subsequently abandoned.
Speaking as the Bill passed its final stage at Holyrood on Wednesday, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "Following the judgment in Petch and Foye, a number of prisoners have successfully appealed and had the punishment part of their mandatory life sentences reduced.
"It's important to emphasise that this did not, and does not, mean that serious offenders have been released early from prison.
"Since the judgment took effect, an offender who has had the punishment part reduced will continue to have needed to satisfy the parole board that they do not present a risk to public safety.
"If the parole board is not satisfied, then the offender remains in prison."
The Bill, which is not retrospective, will also give courts discretion to set the punishment part of discretionary life sentences or an Order for Lifelong Restriction (OLR).
A discretionary life sentence is usually handed out for serious crimes other than murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence. An OLR provides for the lifelong supervision of high-risk violent and sexual offenders.
The second part of the Bill was intended to permit the publication of the statement of reasons for permitting Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to appeal against his conviction for the Lockerbie bombing.
However, following the publication of the statement by the Sunday Herald newspaper, many now regard this part of the Bill redundant.
Labour legal affairs spokeswoman Jenny Marra said: "Although this power of publication will be on the statute book, it is difficult to imagine a similar scenario when it will be applicable."
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