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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 September, 2003, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
'Punishment must fit crime': McConnell
Jack McConnell during media briefing
Jack McConnell gives his views during his media briefing
Scotland's first minister has said that court sentences "must fit the crime" if the judicial system is to retain public confidence.

Jack McConnell was speaking as controversy continued over the five year jail term imposed on a man who raped a baby girl.

The Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd QC, has already asked for a report on whether the sentence passed by the judge, Lord Reed, on James Taylor was "unduly lenient".

Mr McConnell said he could not comment on individual cases but stated: "Where evil crimes have been committed, it is vital that the sentence not only acts to help rehabilitation but that it also fits the crime and imposes a punishment on the person that deters others."

The Scottish Executive has created a Sentencing Commission, headed by Lord Maclean, to examine sentencing policy in the courts.

The move is designed to help restore public faith in the justice system.

Will he give a commitment to end automatic early release and restore honesty in sentencing in our courts?
David McLetchie
Scottish Tories leader
Children's charities have said they had expected Taylor, 43, to be jailed for life for raping the 13-month-old girl.

He was sentenced on Wednesday at the High Court in Dunfermline after pleading guilty last month to rape and indecency towards a six-year-old girl and possessing indecent images of children.

Lord Reed said Taylor was a first offender and that he had been advised by a forensic psychologist that he was unlikely to repeat his crimes.

The offences were committed between August 1998 and December last year.

Mr McConnell was speaking at his first full formal news conference since the elections in May, during which he detailed the executive's legislative priorities.

Automatic remission

Later in the parliament chamber, the Scottish Tories leader David McLetchie asked Mr McConnell on whether or not he would end automatic remission as a result of the case.

Mr McLetchie said that the practice meant the child's attacker would be released in two-and-a-half years.

"Does the first minister think this is acceptable and will he give a commitment to end automatic early release and restore honesty in sentencing in our courts?" he said.

James Taylor (left) was given five years by Lord Reed (right)
James Taylor (left) was given five years by Lord Reed (right)
Mr McConnell repeated his earlier statement about wanting to see the punishment fit the crime in "evil and despicable" cases.

At the media briefing, he looked ahead to the new session of parliament and said there would be bills for court reform, changes to the system of educational special needs, nature conservation measures and proposals to tackle anti-social behaviour.

"The duty of government is to stand up for people and the things that matter to them," Mr McConnell said.

He listed those concerns as law and order, a buoyant economy, the health service and transport.

Dungavel reticence

People also wanted to Scotland to be rid of "the twin evils" of sectarianism and racism.

But the first minister refused to be drawn while being asked repeatedly for his personal views on the detention of children in the Dungavel Immigation and Removal Centre.

"It would be inappropriate of me to comment on individual cases because they are the responsibility of the Home Office," he said.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Reevel Alderson
"Lord Reed's sentence dominated proceedings in parliament"



SEE ALSO:
Baby rape sentence 'unduly lenient'
03 Sep 03  |  Scotland
Lord to chair sentencing body
31 Aug 03  |  Scotland


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