HC Deb 18 March 1970 vol 798 cc382-3
27. Mr. Monro

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will state for each prisoner convicted of murder at any time and released in the last five years the actual period of imprisonment served.

Mr. Ross

The periods served by the seven men concerned were 9 years, 7 years 5 months, 9 years 6 months, 9 years 3 months, 10 years, 9 years, and 8 years 5 months.

Another man, who had earlier been released and subsequently recalled had, when again released, served altogether 14 years and 8 months.

Mr. Monro

Is not there something very wrong with the present situation in which the majority of murderers are serving a much shorter sentence than other criminals who have been sentenced for less serious crimes?

Mr. Ross

I should not like to make a rough-and-ready calculation whether the hon. Gentleman is right. He must know that this is not a new factor. If he would like to put down a Question I will give him the Answer for the period 1953–1964, and if he works out an average for that period he will probably discover that I have been a little less inclined to release murderers than were his right hon. Friends.

Mr. Lawson

I was about to ask my right hon. Friend whether he would give us any idea about what happened in the five-year period before the five years mentioned here.

Mr. Ross

I do not want to do that, because this is not a numbers game which we can play. It is much more serious than that, and I hope that it will be taken much more seriously. But hon. Gentlemen who go into these matters should consider exactly what has been the practice over a long time and how each case is looked at as an individual case.

Mr. Wylie

Is not the new factor that Parliament has decided permanently to abolish the death penalty for murder? That being the case, would the right hon. Gentleman consider—I put it no higher—broadening the remits of Lord Thomson's Committee on Criminal Procedure to see whether a change should be made in the life sentence system?

Mr. Ross

I do not think that it is quite as easy as that. In setting up a committee for a particular purpose one selects the people for that purpose. It is not necessarily the case that the same committee should consider a wider matter I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman would be the first to appreciate that.