AN East Renfrewshire politician has hailed plans to give judges the option of a ‘whole life’ custody term for the very worst criminals.

Jackson Carlaw, who is MSP for Eastwood, was speaking after four out of five respondents to a consultation on the proposals, brought forward by the Scottish Conservatives, backed the move.

Of 225 responses to the Private Members’ Bill, 180 were fully or partially supportive.

The new legislation would allow courts to hand out sentences to prevent the worst criminals from ever being released from prison.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted judges already have the power to keep criminals behind bars for the rest of their life.

However, the Scottish Conservatives say case law currently restricts judges’ ability to do so.

The party highlighted the case of HM Advocate v Boyle as making it clear that an offender who murders a child or police officer should get no more than around 20 years, adding that, if a judge tried to set a “deliberately overlong” sentence, it would be struck down by an appeal court.

Mr Carlaw will now be seeking to push the Whole Life Custody (Scotland) Bill through the Scottish Parliament “in order to deliver genuine justice for victims.”

The Scottish Conservative leader added: “Violent crime in Scotland has risen by 10 per cent in just one year and is now at its highest level for seven years.

“Police officers, prison officers and victims have all backed our proposal – but not Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.

“It’s a simple choice. Whose rights do you put first – the rights of the victims of crime or those of the criminal?

“We choose to put victims first. It is time the First Minister and her government did the same.”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “It is absolutely correct that the most serious offenders go to prison for lengthy periods of time but what the correct periods of time should be in individual cases is rightly and properly a matter for the independent court system.

“The general challenge is not that we are sending too few people to prison, it’s how we make sentencing more effective so that we continue to reduce reoffending and continue to see a downward trend in crime overall.”