BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK: Scotland
Front Page 
World 
UK 
England 
Northern Ireland 
Scotland 
Wales 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Sunday, 21 January, 2001, 15:55 GMT
Murder sentences under review
Courts graphic
The convention has already tested Scotland's legal system
The sentences of an estimated 500 killers serving life in Scottish jails are to be reviewed.

The Scottish Executive has confirmed that all those serving life sentences for murder will have their cases heard by a judge.

The move has been made necessary because of the introduction of the Human Rights Act.


Under no circumstances would the parole board release prisoners if there were any doubts about public safety

Scottish Executive spokeswoman
But the executive has moved to quell fears that the step would automatically lead to shorter sentences.

A spokeswoman said it meant that a judge would make the decision instead of a government minister.

And she said: "There is no serious risk to the public because under no circumstances would the parole board release prisoners if there were any doubts about public safety."

The review of killers' cases has been made necessary by the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into Scots law.

The legislation outlaws the current practice where government ministers decide when convicted murderers can be released.

No longer a threat

All cases will have to be reviewed by a judge, who will set a "punishment period" which must be served before a lifer can be considered for release.

Judges will take into account the recommendations of the parole board before deciding whether to alter the terms of the sentence.

This could lead to some convicted killers being freed immediately if the judge decides they have already served long enough and no longer pose a threat to the public.

The Human Rights Act came into force last year, and has thrown up a number of issues for the Scottish courts.

Part-time sheriffs

Temporary sheriffs, who had been widely used to hear cases in Scotland's 49 sheriff courts, were outlawed by the Court of Appeal.

It was successfully argued that they were not fully independent because they had been appointed by the lord advocate, the senior prosecuting lawyer in Scotland.

The Scottish Parliament was forced to act and create part-time sheriffs who would be appointed by a tribunal.

The convention also led to the Scottish Executive introducing controversial measures to allow bail to be considered in cases of serious alleged crimes such as murder and rape.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE

The Human Rights Act

Key Stories

Around the UK

CLICKABLE GUIDE

FORUM

AUDIO VIDEO

TALKING POINT
See also:

02 Oct 00 | Scotland
Rights law 'will cause errors'
12 Sep 00 | Scotland
Prisons rights challenge warning
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Scotland stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Scotland stories