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PE01565: Whole of life sentences for violent re-offenders


Petitioner: James Dougall


Date Lodged: 01 May 2015

Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to increase the maximum possible sentence for violent re-offenders who commit murder to be a whole of life custodial sentence.

Petition History:


9 June 2015: The Committee took evidence from James Dougall. The Committee agreed to write to the Scottish Government. Link to Official Report 9 June 2015

6 October 2015: The Committee agreed to write to the Scottish Sentencing Council. Link to Official Report 6 October 2015

8 December 2015: The Committee agreed to close the petition, under Rule 15.7, on the basis that the Scottish Sentencing Council will be made aware of the petition and that it will be considered by the Council for inclusion in its work. Link to Official Report 8 December 2015  

Written Submissions:

Currently, the charge of murder is required by law to carry a mandatory life sentence, the custodial element of the life sentence being split into two parts; a determinate period (the punishment part) which must be served in custody in order to satisfy the requirements for retribution and deterrence; and an additional indeterminate period during which the prisoner remains in custody for the protection of the public.

The completion of the punishment part, does not signal the automatic release of a prisoner.  Prior to any release, the Parole Board for Scotland must be satisfied that continued confinement is no longer required for the protection of the public and if a prisoner is released that (s)he will be subject to lifelong conditions and supervision.

When deciding on the punishment part of mandatory life sentences the court is directed to take into account:

- the seriousness of the offence(s) for which the person is being sentenced

- any previous convictions

- any reduction of sentence which might be appropriate following an early guilty plea.

In the early hours of the 9th April 2014 an intruder carrying two knives forced his way into the home of Isabelle Sanders and her partner of nearly 30 years.  The intruder stabbed Isabelle's partner three times in the chest and despite his age (85) and the injuries sustained he luckily survived the attack.  Isabelle, on the other hand, was brutally stabbed 37 times in the head, neck, chest, back, arm and hands and died of her injuries at the scene.  

After the trial it was revealed that the intruder had a number of previous convictions for violence including offences involving knives and at the time of these latest crimes had been out on licence for only 5 weeks.

In a situation such as this where a previously violent offender flagrantly disregards the rehabilitation offered and the opportunity given to him through early release and then goes on to commit a violent murder then I believe that the Scottish Judicary need to be given the option and the guidance to impose a whole of life punishment sentence.


life for a life.

Mary Ferguson

20:48 on 30 Apr 2015

If you breach someone's human rights, you should have all of your human rights removed! I don't understand why there is a petition for this, surely this should be common sense? Hopefully this will make the people in charge sit up and try and change things.

Debbie dargie

20:35 on 30 Apr 2015

Thoughts are with you

David Ronald

18:49 on 30 Apr 2015

Thoughts and prayers with the family

gary hare

16:41 on 30 Apr 2015

Life means life

Anthony kilanowski

14:15 on 30 Apr 2015

Agree wholeheartedly.

Kenneth Murray

14:00 on 30 Apr 2015

Life should mean life

Claire Cochrane

13:17 on 30 Apr 2015

Life should mean life.

Alan McDermott

13:02 on 30 Apr 2015

so many life take by people who reoffend it's a joke

Fiona Lessels

21:51 on 21 Apr 2015

It is about time that the punishment fits the crime and people need to know it is not ok to go about stabbing innocent people and expect to get away with it

Jacqueline Martin

18:15 on 21 Apr 2015

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