Life should mean life?

Photo by Carles Rabada on Unsplash

What does a life sentence for homicide in Scotland actually mean?

Members of the public may scratch their heads when they are reading, viewing or hearing media reports about judges sentencing murderers. Does a 27 year prison sentence represent an adequate punishment in relation to a particularly horrific killing?

I use the figure 27 years quite deliberately because this was the sentence imposed on the murderer, Aaron Campbell, by Lord Matthews at the High Court of Justiciary on 21 March 2019. Campbell was convicted of the abduction and homicide of 6 year old Alesha MacPhail on the Isle of Bute in the summer of 2018.

What perhaps many people fail to realise is that when Lord Matthews imposed the prison sentence on Campbell, for the crime of homicide, this is merely the minimum term which he must serve before he is eligible to apply for parole. It does not mean that Campbell will be released in 27 years. His detention will merely be reviewed. He could be released, but this may well be on licence i.e. subject to very restrictive conditions. Any future Parole Board may well decide that it is not safe or appropriate to release this individual back into society in July 2045- or ever for that matter. The Parole Board May conclude that Campbell can never be rehabilitated.

In a previous post published on 4 March 2019 (Commit the crime, do the time?), I highlighted the fact that judges must work within sentencing guidelines laid down in legislation or developed by the Scottish Sentencing Council. Lord Matthews is a very experienced and senior member of the High Court of Justiciary and would have been well aware of these factors when sentencing Campbell.

A link to a BBC article about the sentencing of Aaron Campbell and footage of Lord Matthews’ sentencing statement can be found below:

Alesha MacPhail murder: Life sentence for Aaron Campbell after he admits guilt

Aaron Campbell was told that he would have to serve at least 27 years before he could apply for parole.

Lord Matthews’ sentencing statement can also be read on the website of the Judiciary of Scotland:

http://www.scotland-judiciary.org.uk/8/2163/HMA-v-Aaron-Campbell

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 21 March 2019

Scottish Criminal Appeals

Photo by David von Diemar on Unsplash

In two of my previous blogs (Life should mean Life? published on 22 March 2019 and Commit the crime, do the time? published on 4 March 2019), I discussed the sentencing process in relation to individuals who have been convicted of criminal offences in the Scottish Courts.

In Life should mean life?, I looked at the sentencing of the teenage murderer, Aaron Campbell by Lord Matthews in the High Court of Justiciary in Glasgow. Campbell was convicted of the murder of 6 year old Alesha MacPhail. Lord Matthews imposed a prison sentence of 27 years on Campbell. This is the minimum term which Campbell must serve before he is eligible to apply for parole. It does not mean that he will be released at the end of this term.

We learned today (4 April 2019), that Campbell‘s legal team has lodged a note of appeal against his sentence. He is not appealing against his conviction.

It will be interesting to see whether the Criminal Appeal Court of the High Court of Justiciary upholds the original prison term. There is always a risk for appellants like Campbell that the Criminal Appeal Court may increase his prison term.

A link to a BBC article discussing Campbell’s appeal can be found below:

Alesha MacPhail killer Aaron Campbell lodges appeal against sentence

Aaron Campbell, 16, is challenging the 27-year jail term he received for the murder of six-year-old Alesha MacPhail.

Postscript

On Tuesday 10 September 2019, Aaron Campbell successfully appealed against the length of the life sentence (27 years) that Lord Matthews had imposed on him following his trial and conviction for murder at the High Court of Justiciary in Glasgow. His prison sentence was reduced by 3 years. This decision was made by 3 senior Scottish judges sitting in the Appeal Court of the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh

Please see the link below to an article on the BBC website about the story:

Alesha MacPhail killer has sentence cut by three years

Copyright Seán J Crossan, 4 April and 10 September 2019