One of the most frequently asked questions regarding murder cases in Scotland is, "How many years do you get for murder?"
In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the legal aspects of murder sentencing in Scotland, exploring the various factors the courts consider and the potential duration of imprisonment.
Understanding Murder and Culpable Homicide
In Scotland, the intentional killing of another person is classified as murder. This is a severe offence that carries a mandatory life sentence for the perpetrator. However, it is important to note that not all murder cases result in life imprisonment. In some instances, charges may be downgraded to culpable homicide instead. Culpable homicide refers to cases where a death has occurred, but the accused did not have the intention to cause death.
Sentencing for Murder and Culpable Homicide
When it comes to sentencing for murder and culpable homicide in Scotland, the courts follow a structured process outlined in the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The judge determines a minimum term in prison, also known as the punishment part, based on the severity of the case and the specific circumstances involved. This minimum term signifies the period an offender must spend in prison before being considered for release on parole.
The starting point for a minimum term in prison varies depending on the age of the offender and the nature of the crime. For adults, the starting point can range from 15, 25, or 30 years, or even a whole life order for individuals aged 21 or over, depending on the seriousness of the offence.
Determining the Minimum Term
After establishing the starting point, the judge takes into account aggravating and mitigating factors specific to the case. Aggravating factors may include premeditation, extreme violence, or a motive related to a political, religious, racial, or ideological cause. On the other hand, mitigating factors could include a lack of intent, self-defence, or undue provocation. These factors may lead to an adjustment of the minimum term.
Apart from the minimum term, the judge also considers other factors such as the offender's previous convictions, any crimes committed while on bail, and whether or not the accused pleaded guilty to the murder. These elements help the judge determine the appropriate duration of imprisonment.
Whole Life Orders
In cases deemed the most serious, a judge may impose a "whole life order." This means the offender will never be released from prison and is not eligible for parole. Whole life orders are reserved for crimes such as abducting and murdering a child or killing for political, religious, racial, or ideological reasons.
Life Sentences and Release on License
For individuals sentenced to life imprisonment, the journey does not end with serving the minimum term. If an offender is considered for release on parole, they must serve the rest of their sentence "on license." This means they are placed under the supervision of probation officers and must adhere to specific conditions, such as restrictions on travel, residence, and employment. Failure to comply with these conditions can result in a recall to prison.
It is essential to understand that life sentences in Scotland truly mean life. Even if an offender is released on license, they remain under the supervision of the probation service for the rest of their lives. This ensures that public safety remains a priority and allows authorities to monitor the behaviour and actions of released offenders closely.
Duration of Imprisonment and Release
When it comes to the actual duration of imprisonment for murder cases, it varies significantly depending on the circumstances of each case. On average, individuals released from prison for murder have served approximately 16.5 years. However, it is important to note that this average includes a range of shorter and longer sentences.
Recidivism and Public Safety
While the justice system aims to rehabilitate offenders, it is crucial to acknowledge the potential risks associated with releasing individuals convicted of murder. There have been cases where individuals on a life license for murder have committed further offences.
To ensure public safety, the justice system has strict measures in place. If someone is convicted of a second murder while on a life license, they can never be released from prison again. These measures aim to protect society from individuals who have demonstrated a propensity for serious violent or life-endangering offending.
Seeking Legal Support
If you or a loved one is facing charges related to murder or culpable homicide in Scotland, it is crucial to seek professional legal assistance. We understand the complexities of these cases and the potential consequences involved. Our experienced team of lawyers will provide dedicated support, guiding you through the legal process and ensuring your rights are protected.
Contact our Criminal Defence Solicitors in Glasgow, Scotland
To ensure you get the best result, it is always best to work with defence solicitors who have experience with this complex area of the law, which our team has.
If you believe you are at risk of being charged with a criminal offence, don't hesitate to contact our team today 0141 336 2020, or fill in our online contact form, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.