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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 March, 2004, 19:38 GMT
Judge angry at social work report
Thomas Shields
Thomas Shields will serve 18 years before being considered for parole
A senior Scottish judge has criticised social workers for wasting public money by bringing forward unrealistic sentencing options for serious crimes.

Lord Hardie made his comments at the High Court in Edinburgh as he prepared to sentence a teenager for a brutal murder.

A background report prepared by social workers had considered options including probation and a fine.

But Lord Hardie sentenced Thomas Shields, 16, to life for the crime.

Shields had been 15 when he murdered his victim at a bus stop in Glasgow in March 2003.

The court was told that he hit James Herd with a metal pole and jumped on him like a trampoline.

Lord Hardie described it as a "vicious, brutal, persistent and unprovoked" attack on an innocent man.

'Absurd' options

But before sentencing Shields, the judge asked for a social enquiry report.

In court on Wednesday, Lord Hardie criticised its content.

He said that for a social worker to consider the options of fines, community service or probation was absurd.

The only sentence available for murder, he insisted, was life imprisonment.

The social inquiry report... does not recommend that community service, probation or a fine should be imposed as punishment for murder
Glasgow City Council spokesman
Defence counsel Kirsty Hood said Shields had been drinking vodka at the time of the offence.

She urged Lord Hardie not to impose a punishment part of any sentence of such length that Shields was left feeling that he had been "written off by society".

But Lord Hardie said Shields, who is now 16, should be detained without limit of time and ruled that he should serve at least 18 years before he could apply for parole.

Glasgow City Council said an inquiry would be carried out.

A spokesman said: "The social inquiry report referred to in the High Court by Lord Hardie does not recommend that community service, probation or a fine should be imposed as punishment for murder.

"Given the judge's criticism of the issues discussed in this report Glasgow City Council will conduct an informal inquiry into the way it was conducted and presented."


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