Last week, in trying to figure out Scotland's release of the Lockerbie bomber via compassionate release, I said:
Whether this was a routine extension of a well used procedure or an extraordinary stretching of one is relevant, I think.I still haven't found a good discussion of the compassionate release law itself, one that would really inform an analysis. But I did come across this explanation, from an NPR program yesterday, from Katty Kay, the Washington correspondent for BBC News:
Well in the last 10 years since the Scottish parliament has being devolved there have been 31 applications for release on compassionate grounds, 24 of them have been freed and the seven that weren't freed, it was because the Scottish prison system didn't think that there was medical evidence that they had terminal illnesses. So it is, yeah, clearly of those you have applied for it on medical grounds with terminal illnesses and the terminal illnesses have been proved, then they've got out.My emphasis.
If that's the case (and I have no reason to believe it isn't), the decision last week makes more sense - meet condition X (a terminal illness) and you are released. In other words, the severity of the crime the prisoner committed doesn't come into the analysis.
I'd like some more detail on exactly what discretion MacAskill had at the end of the process, however. I can't imagine it was quite that mechanical, but I could be wrong. It's worth knowing if MacAskill was pushing the law or if it pushed him.