05/01/2004

'Life' tariff increased for heinous murders

From today, the start of the new legal year, life will mean life for the most heinous murderers.

For the first time, trial judges sentencing murderers will use the new stiffer sentencing framework, set out by Parliament and enshrined in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, to determine how long a murderer should spend in prison before being considered for release on life licence.

Under the guidelines, police killers can expect substantially higher tariffs whereby the minimum term for the murder of a police officer in the course of duty starts at 30 years.

The Home Secretary David Blunkett said: "Murder is the most serious and abhorrent of crimes. The effect that such tragic loss of life has on individuals, families and whole communities is immeasurable.

"Parliament has agreed the new framework which means that the most dangerous and evil people in our society will stay in prison for longer."

He added: "The death penalty for murder was abolished in faith that the criminal justice system would continue to treat the offence with the utmost gravity. The new sentencing principles for murder will help to increase the public's confidence in the criminal justice system's ability to deal appropriately with these most serious crimes by providing adequate punishment for the guilty and adequate public protection."

According to the Criminal Justice Act 2003, after 18 December 2003 life will mean life for multiple murders (two or more) that show a substantial degree of premeditation, involve abduction of the victim prior to the killing or are sexual or sadistic.

Whole life tariffs will also be handed down for: murder of a child following abduction or involving sexual or sadistic conduct; terrorist murder; and murder where the offender has been previously convicted of murder.

Second level, attracting a starting point of 30 years, will be applied for: murder of police and prison officers during course of duty; murder involving the use of a firearm or explosive; killing done for gain; race, religion or sexual orientation motivated murder; and single sadistic or sexual murder of an adult.

Previously, the Home Secretary could set minimum tariffs on sentences but that right has been revoked since November 2002 when the House of Lords ruled that this power was not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

(gmcg)

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