‘MacAskill’s tough response welcome’

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most readers will be deeply concerned, and not a little disgusted, that the minimum jail term of one of Edinburgh’s worst sex offenders was dramatically cut yesterday.

It’s just over two years since James Rennie was sent to prison for 13 years after a police investigation broke up a paedophile ring whose abhorrent activities were focused on a defenceless boy from the age of just three months.

Even then, the sentences seemed short, given the age of the victim and the heartless way Rennie and his seven pervert pals satisfied their sick desires.

One, Neil Strachan, had already had his minimum term cut from 16 to just nine years. That followed a lanmark ruling on offenders with an Order for Lifelong Restriction after appeals in March by rapist Robert Foye and paedophile Morris Petch.

Now Rennie has had his term cut too, to eight and a half years – and no wonder the parents of his victim yesterday warned that this might put other children at risk more than four years earlier than under his original sentence.

It is important to be clear that this will not necessarily be the case.

After he and Lord Philip made their decision, Lord Clarke stressed that Rennie would only be considered for release at an earlier date – and he won’t be if he is still deemed to be a danger.

But confidence has been dented of late by a series of decisions which many take as evidence of “soft justice”.

The Rennie case – and others dealt with yesterday – certainly smack of that, so Kenny MacAskill’s tough response was very welcome.

The Scottish Government said it was looking at changes to the law after the Foye and Petch appeals, and the Justice Secretary said he would now bring those forward within weeks.

He was careful to stress the independence of the judiciary as part of that process, but surely even judges will welcome a clear message from government that paedophiles must be dealt with harshly.

The parents of Rennie’s victim certainly expect it – and so do all decent people.