Conservative Diary

« Cabinet league table for end-November | Main | Should the Conservatives pitch for the ANTI-voters - and, if so, how? (Part One) »

Ken Clarke moves to scrap some minimum murder terms. Will "Ben's Law" be one of them?

by Paul Goodman

Ken Clarke pointing The Daily Telegraph reported during the summer that Ken Clarke is sympathetic to ending mandatory life terms for all murders.  Today's Green Paper on rehabilitation and sentencing says that "We have no intention of abolishing the mandatory life sentence".  That may appear to be the end of the matter, but study the paragraph in which that clause is embedded -

"A key part of simplification will involve Schedule 21 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003. It is essential that we preserve Parliament’s role in setting the sentencing framework for murder. We have no intention of abolishing the mandatory life sentence or of prompting any general reduction in minimum terms imposed for murder. However, Schedule 21 is based on ill-thought out and overly prescriptive policy. It seeks to analyse in extraordinary detail each and every type of murder. The result is guidance that is incoherent and unnecessarily complex, and is badly in need of reform so that justice can be done properly in each case.

Please note: the Government has no intention of prompting any general (my italics) reduction in miniumum terms for murder.

This form of words of course doesn't rule out specific reductions in minimum sentences, for example -

  • Whole life for the most serious murders, including sexual murder of a child.
  • 30 years for murders involving sexual or sadistic conduct; for multiple murders; for the murder of a police officer or gun murders; for murders for financial gain.
  • 25 years for knife murders.

There appears to have been some debate over whether these proposals were to be included in the Green Paper, and it's claimed that the rationale behind them is to prompt a general reduction in sentences - since some judges want to be able to give shorter sentences, and dislike Schedule 21 because it prevents them from doing so.

The Independent reported this morning that Clarke's to drop the Party's pledge to jail anyone caught carrying a knife.  Which minimum terms does he also want to jettison?  Do they include, for example, the minimum 25 year sentence for knife murder, announced only a year ago, and sometimes known as "Ben's Law"?  This was campaigned for by the actress Brooke Kinsella.  During the election, she announced that she was backing the Conservatives, because they would "make the streets safe again".


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.