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Mandatory life sentence should go, says expert report

6 December 2011

The mandatory life sentence for murder in England & Wales should be replaced by a more discretionary penalty, according to a report to be published this week.

The Homicide Review Advisory Group, set up in 2004 to work alongside the Law Commission, which was reviewing aspects of the law on murder, is a multidisciplinary group convened on the initiative of Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC and Professor Terence Morris, to promote a just law of murder.

As part of its aim, and in view of current parliamentary developments concerning sentencing and the use of mandatory sentences, it is publishing the present report. 

It argues that the mandatory life sentence is both unjust and outdated, being a compromise arrived at in order to ensure that abolition of the death penalty in 1965 made its way through both Houses of Parliament. Neither it nor the present system of tariff-setting allow for sentences which match the seriousness of individual crimes, and the system is misunderstood by the public.

While Governments have consistently feared the public reaction to making such a change, the report argues on the basis of modern research that public opinion may well not be averse to such a change, and that the time has come for murder to be sentenced in the same way as other crimes so that the exact circumstances can be properly reflected by the courts.

Click here for publication details.

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