Presiding Officer, thank you for allowing me the privilege of speaking in the last debate in this session. I thank the people of Cumbernauld and Kilsyth for sending me here as their representative in the Parliament. I hope that, with their good will, it will not be the last time that I speak in this great Scottish Parliament.
As other members have done this morning, I place on record my thanks to the clerks to and fellow members of the Justice Committee. Like other members, I have found it a very enjoyable committee to be on. Party politics have been left at the door—in most cases—and we have put the interests of justice at the heart of everything that we have done.
I also thank the ministerial team, their civil servants and all the individuals and organisations that engaged with the committee and the Parliament in providing written and oral evidence and in co-operating with us as we scrutinised the bill. It has arrived here, in the very last hours of the parliamentary session, as a very important piece of legislation.
There is broad consensus on the proposals. Without question, the time is right and change is due. That view is supported by the vast majority of Scots. Throughout the process, I have emphasised the need for reform and I have indicated many problems with the current system—problems that go beyond the World’s End killings that we have discussed so often throughout the process.
My view, and that which is taken by many colleagues, is that the double jeopardy rule is deeply unfair to victims of crime. In previous debates, I have given the example of Billy Dunlop. His was a shocking example of years of justice not being seen to be done, and his case clearly illustrates why we need the new legislation—it is why opinions have hardened and changed over recent years, in my opinion. I make no apologies for mentioning Dunlop again today. He murdered 22-year-old Julie Hogg in 1989, and he faced trial twice. On both occasions, the jury failed to reach a verdict and the killer was never brought to justice. As a result of the changes in 2003 to the legal system in England and Wales, Dunlop was charged and convicted for the murder in 2006—and that after confessing his guilt to the authorities back in 1999.
Changing the system in England and Wales allowed for Dunlop to be punished for the crime that he had committed. For years, however, the authorities knew that he was the killer but were working with their hands tied behind their backs. I ask colleagues to imagine being a family member of a murder victim in those circumstances. As well as having to endure the endless grief of such a cruel and horrendous loss, families know that the killer cannot be prosecuted because of the outdated double jeopardy law. People must have been asking why the law was not standing up for the victims of crime. The status quo here in Scotland is simply wrong, and it is right that new legislation has reached the chamber—legislation that will stand up for victims and their families in my constituency of Cumbernauld and Kilsyth and throughout Scotland.
Times have changed, and our justice system must change to take account of that. The prosecution is able to establish evidence using modern techniques, and our justice system must be allowed to adapt to that. I hope that members throughout the chamber will support the bill today, and I urge them to do so. The changes that it will bring will not impinge on the civil liberties of the people of Scotland; they will help victims and families to see justice done.
Before I sit down, I, too, wish to pay tribute to some of our colleagues who are leaving us today. Bill Butler, as the convener of the Justice Committee for all but three or four meetings—