Overhaul of sentencing laws for violent criminals

The government have today announced new changes to the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales. The changes announced are the biggest reforms to sentencing we have seen in almost twenty years.

Sexual and violent offenders will now serve at least two thirds of their jail term in comparison to the half they previously served. Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, announced the reforms saying it would “keep dangerous criminals off our streets for as long as possible”.

Previously, those offenders sentenced between four and seven years in prison for serious crimes such as rape and manslaughter were automatically considered for release halfway through their prison terms – this will no longer be the case.

The overhaul of sentencing laws include an extension of whole life orders which includes adults that kill children, which was a pledge by the Conservative’s general election last year, and those aged 18-20 convicted of terrorism causing mass loss of life.

The maximum penalty for assaulting emergency workers was also doubled to 2 years in prison from the 12 months previously.

In announcing the changes, the justice secretary noted how sentencing failures could mean that low-level offenders find it difficult to break free from a life of crime. Buckland said, “offenders have little hope of being rehabilitated and we, as a society, have little hope of ending the cycles of crime in which any one of us can become victims”.

A White Paper was published this morning which proposed several changes including:

  • More help for those offenders with mental health and addiction issues.
  • Option of a new whole life tariff for killers under the age of 21.
  • Raising sentencing thresholds for serious offences including a “third strike” for burglaries and “two strikes” for knife possession.
  • New powers to halt the automatic release of offenders who pose a terrorist threat or are a danger to the public.
  • Reducing opportunities for over-18s who committed murder as a child to have their minimum jail term reviewed.
  • Using GPS tags to track burglars, robbers and thieves when released from prison
  • Deploying “sobriety tags” to tackle alcohol-related crime.

There is also a commitment from the government to give more support to get ex-offenders into work. This will come in the form of reducing the period of time in which an offender has to disclose a past offence to their employer.

The changes should mark the end of complex and confusing laws as well as bringing more comfort to the victims and their families of serious crimes that the offender should face more prison time in line with the sentence delivered to them in Court.

-Ciara Higgins 

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