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Former Parole Board chair says body’s independence ‘crucial’

An idea named "Suzanne's Law" has been proposed by the families of victims.

'Very concerned': Professor Sandy Cameron
'Very concerned': Professor Sandy Cameron

A former chair of the Parole Board has said he is “very concerned” about the prospect of a rule barring the release of killers who won’t reveal their victim’s whereabouts.

An idea named “Suzanne’s Law” – after Suzanne Pilley whose ex-lover David Gilroy has never revealed her whereabouts after killing her in 2010 – has been proposed by the families of victims.

The Scottish Government intends to amend the Parole Board rules so the board takes into account the withholding of information by killers before granting release.

But Professor Sandy Cameron, a former chair of the parole board, has expressed concern that this proposal will turn into an “absolute requirement” which, he believes, could jeopardise the independence of the body.

Speaking on Scotland Tonight, he said: “I absolutely agree with the point that the role of the parole board is not about punishment or deterrence, that’s the role of the court.

“The role of the parole board is about the safety of the public if this individual is released.

“I would be very concerned if there was an absolute requirement put on the parole board not to allow release for someone in these circumstances because that begins to tie the hands of the parole board.

“The independence of the parole board is absolutely crucial within our justice system.”

Kate Wallace, director of Victim Support Scotland, said families they work with believe failing to disclose the whereabouts of a body is a “continuation of a crime against them”.

She said: “Certainly the families that we work with in similar circumstances are very clear that it’s a continuation of a crime against them.

“They can’t understand why someone would be eligible for parole when they’re failing to disclose where a body is and not allowing them to lay a loved one to rest.”

Following a report by Scotland Tonight, the Scottish Government expressed its sympathies with families affected in these cases.

A spokesman said: “We have considered the point raised in the Suzanne’s Law campaign about failure to disclose the location of a victim’s body and the justice secretary has met with the family of Suzanne Pilley on two occasions.

“Our sympathies are with the families in these tragic cases and we would be happy to meet with the family of Arlene Fraser to discuss their concerns.

“The Scottish Government intends to make it explicit, for the first time, that the failure to disclose the location of a victim’s body is a matter the Parole Board may take into account, along with other factors and relevant information, when considering the release of a person on parole in a relevant case.

“The decision to release a person subject to a life sentence on parole, rests with the Parole Board who, completely independent of Scottish Ministers, make their assessment of the potential risk an individual may pose if released based on all the facts and information placed before them.”


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