Friday, 30 October 2009

There are crimes where "life imprisonment" should mean exactly that!

There are times when you watch TV and your blood boils. For me, one such instance occurred today with the news that two men convicted at Edinburgh High Court of the most heinous of paedophile offences may see the light of day as free men despite their headline sentence being "life imprisonment".

These two men have been found guilty of a string of child pornography and abuse crimes, including sexual assault of a three-month old baby. Neil Strachan is to serve a minimum 16-year term and James Rennie a minimum 13-year term before they are eligible to be considered for parole.

I thought long and hard about posting on this issue because it is no longer politically correct to talk about jailing people for life without the possibility of parole. I disagree and it is time we had an open and honest debate about the way sentencing policy in Scotland's courts is failing the test of public opinion.

For me, that our criminal justice system seems incapable of sentencing criminals to prison terms that enjoy public support suggests our legal system has not kept pace with the changing world in which we live. There are some crimes and some criminals for whom life imprisonment should mean they never see the light of day as free men or women again.

Police killers, some murderers, serial rapists and paedophiles capable of this sort of systematic abuse of defenceless children should all know that there crimes could enable Judges to pass down life imprisonment terms that mean they will spend the rest of their lives in jail.

I concede this will not stop the most determined criminal from committing these crimes but it will serve as a deterrent to some and as a guarantee to the rest of our society that once caught the most serious of criminal will never be free to hurt them, their families and their friends, again.

The prosecutors of Strachan and Rennie are to be commended for having successfully convicted these beasts but it beggars belief that they are quoted as saying the "severity" of the sentences would "act as a warning to others" when I believe most ordinary Scots would have hoped they would have been sentenced to life imprisonment without the prospect of parole.

So let's have an open, honest and constructive debate about the failings of our criminal justice system, sentencing policy and when life imprisonment should mean convicts never walk our streets again. In a mature democracy this should be something we do as a matter of course but in today's Britain I fear the human rights of the criminal will be put ahead of those of the victim.

I for one am not prepared to allow this to go unchallenged and I know, from my experience of listening to local people on the doorsteps of East Renfrewshire, so many people feel the same.

No comments: