The Criminal Cases (Punishment and Review) (Scotland) Act came into force on 24th September, and closed a legal loophole which arose following the Appeal Court's judgement in the case of Petch and Foye v. HMA. The loophole had meant that prisoners given a discretionary life sentence or Order for Lifelong Restriction (OLR) could apply to become eligible for parole earlier than those serving sentences of a fixed length.
The courts have now regained the discretion to set a 'punishment part' of non-mandatory life sentences that it considers appropriate in all the circumstances of a particular case to ensure appropriate punishment of the offender.
The 'punishment part' of a sentence is the minimum period of time which an offender must serve in prison before they become eligible to apply to the Parole Board for consideration of being released on parole.
The role of the Parole Board is to consider whether prisoners continue to present a risk to public safety. If the Parole Board considers an offender does continue to present a risk to public safety, the Parole Board will not authorise the release of that offender on parole.
The Act also puts in place a framework that will enable, as far as possible within devolved competence, the disclosure of information by the SCCRC in cases where an appeal has been abandoned or has fallen.
The changes to the law will not be retrospective and therefore will not impact on cases and appeals currently being heard.