Aimed at cutting crime and restoring public faith in sentencing, the “radical” justice plan would allow child-killers in England and Wales to get whole life orders (WLOs), meaning they'd never be released from prison. This would also extend to 18- to 20-year-olds if their crimes are judged serious enough.
Since 2003, the law has forbidden giving WLOs to 18- to 20-year-olds, no matter what their crime.
Second and Third StrikesThe new sentencing measures, set out in a white paper (pdf) from Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, would also toughen the criteria that allow judges to hand down less than the minimum statutory terms for "second strike" knife possession and "third strike" burglary offenses.
Buckland highlighted recent terror attacks perpetrated by offenders serving fixed-term sentences who had been released automatically, only to commit “horrifying acts of violence” after leaving prison.
The new measures would give judges the power to refer such offenders considered dangerous or posing a terror threat to the parole board for assessment before being set free.
Duty to the PublicOver the past 30 years, sentencing had become “hugely complex” but “nowhere near as effective,” with judges sometimes having to impose sentences that seem to make “little sense,” Buckland said in a speech on Sept. 16 to introduce the white paper.
“The first duty of any government is to keep the public safe from harm,” he said.
“It is a responsibility this government takes extremely seriously, and my department has been working on a range of measures to make the sentencing system work better to protect people and to reduce crime.”
Protecting the public also involves improving rehabilitation and reducing re-offending, Buckland said.
Smart InterventionsBuckland highlighted the need for "smart interventions" that minimize repeat petty offenders "going back and forth to prison."
“Offenders in this category often live chaotic lifestyles, sometimes driven by drug and alcohol misuse, or poor mental health,” Buckland said in his speech. "Their backgrounds are often characterized by entrenched poverty, absent role models, and a lack of any decent education."
To address repeated low-level offending, the new measures propose a test of five “problem-solving” courts, which will take a new approach.
In a bid to address the “sliding scale of increasing inevitability that we cannot ignore,” the program won't seek to imprison high-needs or frequent low-level offenders.
Instead, it will try "innovative solutions" such as "graduated sanction incentives," Buckland said.
Mental Health and Housing ConcernsThere also will be more support for mental health and treatment for addictions as part of sentencing, and more tagging, curfews, and deferred sentencing as alternatives to prison. There will also be additional support for offenders with autism and dyslexia, and more empowerment for probation services.
“Ministry of Justice data show that between 9 June and 31 July this year, nearly a third of prisoners—2,400 people—were released homeless or to an unknown circumstance,” Lammy said.
“How will longer sentences protect the public if people continue to be released homeless and without the chance to turn their lives around?”
The letter, addressed to Buckland and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, called for the provision of somewhere to live for everyone leaving prison.
“This should be safe and secure accommodation which provides a foundation for them to make positive changes and move away from a life of crime,” the letter states.
“For people leaving prison, being released homeless is simply setting them up to fail.”
The letter also said that nearly 1,000 people are released from prison monthly with no home to go to, and that significantly increases the risk of re-offending.
Recent CasesThe new sentencing proposals follow the sentencing to 55 years in prison of Hashem Abedi in August.
Abedi, the judge said, would have gotten a WLO if he hadn't been under the age of 21 at the time he committed the Manchester Arena bombing that killed 22 people and injured hundreds, almost half of whom were children or teenagers.
Lissie launched her campaign following the on-duty death of her husband, Police Constable Andrew Harper, who was dragged behind a getaway car. His three killers, a 19-year-old and two 18-year-olds, were each sentenced to between 13 and 16 years in prison.