A victim’s rights campaigner last night condemned the ‘shocking’ judicial guidance that shaved five years off a homicidal rapist’s sentence.
Rhys Bennett received a shorter minimum term on his life sentence for killing Jill Barclay because he was under 25 and had entered an early guilty plea.
Mother-of-two Ms Barclay, 47, was attacked while walking home after a night out in Aberdeen last September.
Bennett, 23, stamped on and beat her head and body, compressed her neck and dragged her along the ground. He then raped her, before later returning to pour petrol on her and set her alight while she was still alive.
Lord Arthurson branded the violence ‘feral’ but said he was compelled to give Bennett the lighter minimum sentence of 24 years, reduced from at least 29, because of his early guilty plea and age.
Mother-of-two Ms Barclay, 47, was attacked while walking home after a night out in Aberdeen last September
Rhys Bennett received a shorter minimum term on his life sentence for killing Jill Barclay because he was under 25 and had entered an early guilty plea
Kenny Stewart, whose daughter Michelle was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend, described Bennett’s reduced sentence as ‘shocking’.
He said: ‘Where is the deterrent and punishment for people who get their sentences reduced just because they’re under 25? If you take a life you should get life in prison. You shouldn’t see the light of day again as far as I’m concerned. I’m quite sure the family of the woman that was killed [Jill Barclay] will be angry with the reduced sentence.’
Michelle, 17, was murdered by John Wilson, 20, in 2008.
Mr Stewart said: ‘When you’re 18 you’re an adult, and even when you’re younger than that you still know right and wrong. As far as I’m concerned, regardless of whether you are 15, 30 or 40 you should get life for murder.’
He is campaigning for ‘Michelle’s Law’ to give victims’ families more rights and met then justice secretary Humza Yousaf in 2019. ‘I ripped up my SNP membership card after the meeting,’ he said. The guidelines say under-25s ‘generally have a lower level of maturity, and a greater capacity for change and rehabilitation’.
Russell Findlay, Scottish Tory justice spokesman, yesterday asked First Minister Mr Yousaf if he backed these guidelines in every single case ‘no matter how wicked or barbaric the crime’.
He replied sentences must always be a matter for the judiciary, ‘even in the most heinous, despicable cases’. But Labour MSP Pauline McNeill said the case showed a review is needed.
The Scottish Sentencing Council said: ‘The guideline is based on independent evidence from around the world on what contributes to offending by young people and what is effective in reducing reoffending.’