Tories call for cross-party support over whole life sentences

The government said criminal courts already have the power to keep offenders in custody for the rest of their life.

Tories call for cross-party support over whole life sentences iStock

The Scottish Tories have called on Scotland’s other parties to back whole life sentences.

Currently, judges in Scotland have to provide a minimum term to be served in prison before an offender can be released when handing down a life sentence.

However Tory MSP Russell Findlay has said “life should mean life” for the most dangerous criminals in the country, pointing to the recent whole life sentence given to the murderer of Sarah Everard.

“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,” Findlay said.

“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.”

Other parties have been urged to back the Tory calls.

Findlay said: “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.”

When questioned on the possible implementation of whole life sentences last week in the Scottish Parliament, justice secretary Keith Brown told Tory MSP Meghan Gallacher: “As things stand, we believe that the courts have the ability to hand down extended sentences in cases in which they think that that is appropriate.”

He added: “We are, of course, continuing to have a dialogue, and other members of Meghan Gallacher’s party have put their case in debates.

“We will, of course, listen to those views, but, as things stand, 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 spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “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.

“These exceptional powers have been in place for use by Scotland’s most senior judges in the High Court since the early 2000s 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.

“Within the context of these extensive powers being available to the court, the Scottish Government is willing to consider further any specific proposals in this area.”