Awaiting Freedom, the Killers Backed by Courts; Warning on Public Safety as Appeal Judges Cut Murderers' Sentences Home
Byline: GRAHAM GRANT;GRAHAM GRANT
A DOUBLE murderer who killed his brother with an axe after being freed from an earlier life sentence could be released within months after winning an appeal.
George Emslie was first jailed 40 years ago for a shotgun murder and spent a decade in jail - then went on to slaughter his brother following his release.
He is thought to be the only criminal in the history of Scots law to have served two life sentences.
But despite the brutal killings, Emslie, 66, has convinced judges his current sentence is too long - and has successfully lobbied for a two-year reduction.
The ruling was heavily criticised last night as it means Emslie will be out in months if parole board chiefs, who have often been criticised for lenient decisions, agree to his release.
Two other notorious murderers also had their sentences reduced yesterday after persuading judges their good behaviour in jail justified early release.
James Boyce, 67, who shot dead a German tourist and tried to wipe out the rest of his family during a robbery, had his 20-year ' punishment part' cut by three years.
Robert Eadie, 38, who killed a security guard, had his 16-year sentence reduced by two years.
The appeals follow a Privy Council ruling requiring judges to take into account the conduct of the killer while in prison in such cases.
But last night it was warned that Scotland's 'soft touch' justice system is threatening public safety.
Margaret Mitchell, justice spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said: 'These cases are yet another disturbing example of how the rights of criminals have been put ahead of the rights of victims - a process accelerated by the Labourled Scottish Executive's rush to incorporate European human rights legislation into Scots law.
' Emslie's case is particularly shocking - this man has spent more than two decades in jail for two horrific crimes.
'To me, and for anyone genuinely concerned about public safety, it beggars belief his early release has even been contemplated.' Since 2001, European laws have compelled judges to set a ' punishment part' when passing life sentences. This is the minimum period offenders must stay behind bars before being considered for parole.
After this term is served, parole chiefs can then release an offender on licence if they feel he or she has been rehabilitated.
Emslie was previously told he would have to serve 16 years for murdering his brother, Thomas, 45, at their Fife home in 1992.
Yesterday he thanked judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh after they reduced the term to 14 years - meaning the killer can seek immediate release.
Lord Osborne called the murder 'very brutal', but added: 'Focusing on the conduct of the appellant since the sentence commenced, there is a very favourable report from the Justice Department. …