Families of homicide victims here have renewed calls for minimum prison terms for murder following the 23-year sentence handed down to Alexander Pacteau.
The 24-year-old was given a life sentence at Glasgow High Court for the murder of Cork woman Karen Buckley, but Judge Rita Rae ordered that he must serve 23 years as “punishment” before he is even considered for release.
And she said if Pacteau is still considered by the Parole Board to pose a serious risk, he will stay locked up.
Judge Rae said the 25-year minimum prison term, with two years discounted, was to satisfy the demands of “retribution and deterrence”.
Advocates for Victims of Homicide (AdVic) welcomed the sentence and offered condolences to the Buckleys.
“While the sentence will not make up for her family’s loss or aid with their suffering, it does give clarity to how long he will serve in prison,” said John O’Keeffe, AdVic chief executive.
He said the Scottish model stood in contrast to the Irish criminal justice system, where families were left to wonder exactly how long the killer of their loved one would remain behind bars.
“A more accurate title for a life sentence in Ireland should be a minimum sentence of seven years as technically killers could be eligible for parole after this short period of time,” he said. “This exacerbates Irish families’ suffering as they are left to wonder how quickly murderers could be back out on the streets.”
He said AdVic’s recommendation was to adopt a similar model to the English and Welsh courts with regards to the British Criminal Justice Act, whereby minimum tariffs are associated with homicide offences.
AdVic have proposed a series of tariffs: 15 years, 25 years, 30 years, and a whole- life order.
“Changing our system to adopt minimum tariffs would go some way to offering clarity to victims’ families, the general public and offenders as to exactly how long killers will serve,” said Mr O’Keeffe.
“Adopting such a model would result in a fair and equitable system, where justice is seen to be done by the wider community and the rights of victims’ families are put on an equal footing with the rights of prisoners.”
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