Victims' Rights

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:24 pm on 15th September 2005.

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Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative 5:24 pm, 15th September 2005

I congratulate Margaret Jamieson on securing this important debate. I apologise for the oversight of not signing her motion before today, which I assure her I have now rectified.

Victims' rights have been brought starkly into focus as a result of the recent Napier judgment. A claim under the European convention on human rights was upheld and Lord Bonomy awarded Robert Napier compensation for slopping out. Despite the fact that the decision could have been avoided had the Scottish Executive not left itself wide open to a claim by incorporating the convention directly into Scots law without sufficient regard for the consequences and by diverting to other projects funds that were set aside for the express purpose of dealing with slopping out, it is nonetheless the case that, as a result of its application in this case, the ECHR has changed from being a mechanism to protect individual rights from being abused into a compensation scheme for crooks and criminals. Furthermore, as a result, law suits have been threatened not only for slopping out, but for prison boredom. That is madness.

Criminals should not benefit from their crimes. It is right and proper to press the Scottish Executive to pursue all avenues to ensure that no convicted criminal has the opportunity to gain financially from their wrongdoing or imprisonment.

In recent years, several criminals have profited from their crimes by publishing their memoirs or being paid to recount their crimes, for example. That is totally unacceptable and it is why the Conservatives pledged at the recent general election to amend the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to ensure that literary proceeds could be considered to be proceeds of crime. Literary proceeds would include not only royalties from the publication of a book, essay or article, but advance payments to assist any such book or newspaper story. Live entertainment or any other commercial exploitation of a crime would be included and the liability for confiscation of such proceeds would have no time limit.

I very much hope that the minister will support the motion in an effort to ensure that the real victims of crime—those who are mugged, robbed or abused—can in turn sue their assailants when prisoners for the suffering and distress that they inflicted. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to speak in favour of the motion.