We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Whole-life Sentences

– in the Scottish Parliament on 28th November 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

This week, a significant case review on the Dundee Law killer was published. Among a number of damning conclusions, it exposed terrifying flaws, such as that officials believed that he was playing the system and that he had psychopathic tendencies that increased the likelihood of future violent reoffending.

Linda McDonald, who was the victim of a brutal attack by that violent criminal when he was on home leave, said that that cannot be allowed to happen again. She is right. Does the First Minister agree with Linda McDonald that the time has come to look at giving judges the option to put the worst criminals in prison for the rest of their lives?

The First Minister:

I acknowledge Mrs McDonald’s bravery, and I again extend my deepest sympathy to her and to the family of Robbie McIntosh’s first victim.

The significant case review was an important exercise. It found that the attack on Mrs McDonald could not have been predicted and that Robbie McIntosh alone was responsible for that. Nevertheless, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Prison Service are committed to learning from all the findings of the review, and will build on actions that have already been taken. For example, the SPS has already implemented improvements to its risk assessment and progression processes, and it has delivered new training. We will take forward all the recommendations, which we take seriously.

Mrs McDonald has written to me on the subject of whole-life sentences and I pay tribute to her for doing so. I have said to her that I will never close my mind to any suggestions that are about keeping the people of Scotland safe. However, as I have said to Liam Kerr and to others in this chamber, it is possible, if a judge thinks it appropriate, to impose a punishment part of a sentence that extends beyond the natural life of a prisoner, as happened in the World’s End case. It is also the case that when the punishment part of a sentence expires, it is for the Parole Board for Scotland to decide whether it is safe to release somebody from prison. Those are the arrangements in place, but in the interests of victims of crime, such as Mrs McDonald, who has shown exceptional bravery in this, the Scottish Government will always consider what more can be done to make sure that we are keeping people across Scotland safe.