Some of the UK’s worst criminals, including young terrorists, rapists and other violent offenders will face longer prison sentences under tough new plans unveiled today.
Sex attackers and brutal thugs will serve two-thirds of their prison terms instead of the current half before being considered for release under the shake-up of the criminal punishment system.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland is also unveiling plans to give judges the power to hand 18 to 20-year-olds whole life sentences amid an outcry that one of the Manchester terrorist bombers avoided this sentence because of his age.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has said he wants to make ‘radical and meaningful’ changes to crime sentencing.
He told the BBC: ‘I want to change this system, I’ve had 30 years of working in it.
‘I’ve now got the opportunity to do something really radical and meaningful.
‘And with the help of the probation service, which we’re increasing in capacity, I believe that we can deliver a really balanced system of sentencing that means that we protect the public from serious offenders but also offer meaningful rehabilitation for those who want to take that opportunity.’
The worst sex and violent offenders can already receive a life sentence. Today’s change sees convicts sentenced to between four and seven years made to serve two-thirds of sentences behind bars instead of being eligible for release on licence at the halfway stage.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland announced a major overhaul of sentencing that will see 18 to 20-year-olds become eligible for whole life sentences
Hashem Abedi, the brother of the Manchester Arena bomber, was jailed for 55 years but the mass murderer could not face a ‘whole life tariff’ because he was under at the time the atrocity was committed
Former Victims’ Commissioner Baroness Helen Newlove, whose husband was beaten to death by three teenagers in 2007, welcomed the bill, but called for more.
She told GMB this morning: ‘It is something I will fight for in the House of Lords when this comes through, but we’ve got to ensure that there’s legal rights for victims, survivors and their families.
‘I think its been shown recently, with PC Harper’s widow Lissie, that’s shown how the system actually is broken.
‘At the end of the day the Criminal Justice System is on its knees, sentencing is one stream of it, but it’s after the event when you go back, we have to then try and live our lives
‘It’s the most loneliest time and it’s the hardest time, that’s why I welcome these tougher sentences, however I’m still on pause because it has to go right through Parliament.
‘The one thing I do welcome, is actually 18 years of age in this country, you’re seen as an adult and it’s something I have always said about my daughter Zoe, who was 18 at the time of losing her father.
‘She was treated as an adult, but one of the offenders in the dock who was 18, he didn’t go to ‘big boy prison,’ as I put it.
Baroness Helen Newlove, whose husband was beaten to death by three teenagers in 2007, has welcomed tougher sentences, but has called for a ‘victim’s law’ to support families through criminal proceedings
‘They had to look after him before they put him in an adult prison, so we have conflicting messages. It’s important people understand this is just the beginning.
‘Something that I really want is victim’s law to ensure that legal rights we can follow this through and ensure we have a voice within that criminal justice system.’
Last month the brother of the Manchester Arena bomber was jailed for 55 years – the longest minimum life term in history.
Justice Jeremy Baker told the hearing Hashem Abedi ‘may never be released’ but it was revealed the mass murderer could not face a ‘whole life tariff’ despite being found guilty in England’s biggest terror trial because he was under 21 when he helped his brother plot the bomb attack.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already said the reforms will make it easier for ‘judges to put dangerous offenders behind bars for longer’.
But the package, covering in England and Wales, will also include measures at the lower end of the sentencing spectrum.
Community sentences given to offenders instead of prison will be made tougher by doubling the length of time offenders can be subject to curfew restrictions to two years.
The orders can be made more flexible to help offenders keep their jobs, for example by having fewer restrictions from Monday to Friday but then stricter curfews of up to 20 hours at weekends.
Measures included in today’s Sentencing White Paper
Whole life orders for child killers, including the ability for judges to hand out this maximum punishment to 18-20 year-olds in exceptional cases.
New powers to halt the automatic release of offenders who pose a terrorism risk or are a danger to the public.
Ending the release of offenders sentenced to four-seven years at the halfway point, instead requiring them to serve two-thirds of their term.
Longer minimum sentences for 15-17 year-old murderers.
Prisoners sentenced to life will serve longer before being eligible for parole.
Using ‘sobriety tags’ to clampdown on alcohol-related crimes.
Using GPS to track burglars, robbers and thieves when they are released from prison.
In an effort to tackle reoffending, for the first time GPS electronic location monitoring will be routinely used to track burglars, robbers and thieves when they are released from prison.
The technology will allow probation to monitor an offender’s whereabouts and, if appropriate, share this data with the police.
For criminals who stay out of trouble, the requirement to routinely disclose offences to employers for non-sensitive roles will be reduced.
Custodial sentences of up to a year will become spent after a further 12 months without reoffending, instead of four years, while terms of one-to-four years will no longer be disclosed after four crime-free years – down from seven.
Sentences of more than four years will not automatically be disclosed to employers once a seven-year period of rehabilitation has been served, instead of for the rest of an offender’s life.
Mr Buckland said: ‘For too long our justice system has been beset by complex and confusing laws which the public often feel fail in their most essential aims – to keep them safe and properly punish offenders.
‘That ends today. This White Paper is the first step in a fundamental shift in our approach to sentencing, towards one that is fairer, smarter and ultimately better protects the public.
‘Our measures will ensure the most serious violent and sexual offenders get the prison time they deserve, while new community interventions and changes to rules around criminal records will help boost rehabilitation and cut reoffending – which means creating fewer victims.’
The Government has set a target of 20,000 extra police officers but Mr Johnson told the Cabinet on Tuesday that ‘there’s no point in catching the criminals if they are simply going to be let out early’.
He said: ‘We have seen far too many cases recently of criminals being let out early and then offending again and the judges being unable to impose the stiff sentences that they want and that society wants because of the restrictive guidelines that they face.’
He told ministers that he wanted ‘sensible approaches to sentencing, making it easier for judges to put dangerous offenders behind bars for longer’.
He promised to end the ‘ridiculous state of affairs whereby a criminal can just get back out onto the streets even when it is clear to everybody – including the court – that they pose a threat to justice and a threat to the British public’.
‘That includes longer sentences for child killers, lowering the age limit on whole-life tariffs for the worst offenders and locking (up) for longer more of the most violent criminals before they can apply for parole,’ he said.