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Court of Appeal upholds principle of whole-life prison terms

In my view, judges should not be able to jail offenders for a "whole life" tariff.

Here's a bit of background: link to BBC news story.

Anyone sentenced to "Life" will remain under that sentence for the rest of their life - whether they are released on licence in the future or not. The judge sets a tariff which is the minimum term that the offender must serve in prison before his case is permitted to be reviewed by a parole panel. But, in my view, it's important that any offender serving time in prison has that review as a future "goal" to aim towards. It may be extremely unlikely that certain prisoners will ever be released on parole, but they should be given the goal of behaving, improving, serving their punishment and rehabilitation and contributing to society in a meaningful way. To deny them that does not, in my view, serve the ends of justice properly.

No judge sitting today can be completely certain about the political and moral landscape of the future, perhaps forty or fifty years from now. So, in my view a Life Sentence should be served with a minimum tariff of a number of years, as set by a judge and should be reviewed at that time by a parole board, with a judge presiding.
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Comments

  • I'm pro the whole life tariff - not everyone is rehabilitable, some people are dangerous and need to stay locked up for good. I don't care if those people have a goal to look forward to or not, it's not about the it's about the safety of others.

    Who falls under that and who doesn't is a much more complicated matter and each case needs to be dealt with on its own merits.
  • To me, it's about the precautionary principle. We don't execute people because there is always the chance that innocent people will suffer (e.g the Birmingham six).

    So why do we let convicted murderers out if there is even the slightest chance that they may kill again? If we act with the same caution, then the fate of innocent members of the public cannot be gambled with - they cannot and should not be released.

    When the death penalty was abolished, it was with the tacit agreement that 'life would mean life'. However, this has been steadily eroded and this agreement has been reduced to a mockery - this is why many people feel that our criminal justice system is a joke which humiliates the victim's family and mollycoddles murderers etc.

    I for one cannot believe the kind of sentences that are handed out to the human detritus that, for example, 'traffic' women and children for sexual slavery. These are people who sleep at night knowing that others' brutal, terrifying misery is a price worth paying for their financial gain - repeated, brutal rape day after to day. Anyone who does that to another human being shows a lack of empathy so shocking that I believe they are unfit to dwell as free men/women because of their willingness to facilitate the suffering of others. They should be sent to prison and never get out, ever.

    I'll be honest, rehabilitation is a great thing and should be the goal for all but the most despicable criminals, but some crimes are so serious I see it as irrelevant. The priority is to protect society from these people and if their 'human rights' are interpreted as being breached in some way by someone with wool for brains then I couldn't care less. As a society, we deserve to be protected, full stop.
  • Surprised the Court of Appeal stood up for common sense in the matter. I think that the majority of the nation would applaud the retention of whole life prison terms. Would rather top the bastards myself and be done with it but that of course will never happen.
  • Wonder how long it will be before Drummer Rigby's murderers are sentenced, now that this is out of the way?
  • a whole life sentence is a big deterrent and some (especially) murderers deserve to rot inside .. parole boards will still be in place to assess when a serious offender is rehabilitated and worthy of release. In the USA such sentences as (e.g.) 30 years with no parole are common ... to my mind this would be worse than a life sentence with a chance of parole. 30 years full stop .. what is the point of the miscreant behaving and rehabilitating himself when there is no advantage to be gained from good behaviour ?
  • a whole life sentence is a big deterrent and some (especially) murderers deserve to rot inside .. parole boards will still be in place to assess when a serious offender is rehabilitated and worthy of release. In the USA such sentences as (e.g.) 30 years with no parole are common ... to my mind this would be worse than a life sentence with a chance of parole. 30 years full stop .. what is the point of the miscreant behaving and rehabilitating himself when there is no advantage to be gained from good behaviour ?

    Is it?

  • Chizz said:

    a whole life sentence is a big deterrent and some (especially) murderers deserve to rot inside .. parole boards will still be in place to assess when a serious offender is rehabilitated and worthy of release. In the USA such sentences as (e.g.) 30 years with no parole are common ... to my mind this would be worse than a life sentence with a chance of parole. 30 years full stop .. what is the point of the miscreant behaving and rehabilitating himself when there is no advantage to be gained from good behaviour ?

    Is it?

    yes
  • Lee rigbys killers were due to be sentanced on Thursday but it got put back further so that this case could be concluded and Judge Sweeney could see the outcome before passing sentanced. Now it has he will sentance and give a whole life tariff
  • I know we haven't got there yet but it won't be long before the question of Capital Punishment is brought up.

    Anyone interested in that age old debate please watch this http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p01rw5gk/Hardtalk_Former_Commissioner_of_Corrections_Georgia_USA_Allen_Ault/

    It is a truly astounding programme, very powerful and moving.
  • Good, common sense shown by the Courts. Some people are just abd and can not be helped, so for the safety of the public, they need to be removed from the general public.
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  • If a person of sane mind kills another person without provocation, they deserve to never be released. Remorse can be faked and 'good behaviour' doesn't indicate the person is changed.
  • This is a very, very contentious area. Interesting to see in amongst the general Charlton stuff. There are many different issues that will affect people's stance. I for one have to put myself firmly in the 'life means life camp'. I believe that we generally withhold life sentences for the most severe of crimes. I'm not an expert on the law, but it was always my understanding a life sentence is 25 years. This may have changed or is subject to a judge's discretion I don't know. Now if you take murder/manslaughter, the victim and the victim's family have an eternal life sentence of their own to shoulder. The offender is released on parole after 25 years (whether or not rehabilitated), and as such is free of his crime. How can that make sense? The victim's family aren't ever going to be free of pain after 25 years. You might argue the offender will have to re-enter into society and carry the burden of being an ex prisoner, struggle to get jobs etc, but they committed the crime, not the other way round.

    I am sure the liberal minded, Christian human being would want to see the very best in every individual, but I think soapy and bigstemarra are correct in saying these people have done wrong, been proven guilty and a life sentence is more than justified.
  • If a 20 year old commits murder, there is only one sentence the judge is allowed to hand down: a Life Sentence. The Judge (and the Judge alone) then decides on the tariff. He might set seven, ten, fifteen, twenty or more years. Whatever he decides is appropriate for the case, taking due consideration of the sentencing guidelines.

    The bit I don't understand is this: how can a Judge, sitting in 2014, passing sentence on a 20 year-old make a decision that the convicted murderer cannot be released when he's in his seventies or eighties or older? What is it that the Judge can know right now which means that the criminal cannot be released, even when he is demonstrably no longer a "threat to society", as he cannot walk, talk, feed, clean or look after himself? How can he *know* that, today?

    Surely it's far better to pass judgement by saying: "You will serve a Life Sentence; you will never finish that sentence; however, those people that are in charge of such matters can decide in 50 years' time whether you are then fit to be released, on license". Surely?
  • cabbles said:

    This is a very, very contentious area. Interesting to see in amongst the general Charlton stuff. There are many different issues that will affect people's stance. I for one have to put myself firmly in the 'life means life camp'. I believe that we generally withhold life sentences for the most severe of crimes. I'm not an expert on the law, but it was always my understanding a life sentence is 25 years. This may have changed or is subject to a judge's discretion I don't know. Now if you take murder/manslaughter, the victim and the victim's family have an eternal life sentence of their own to shoulder. The offender is released on parole after 25 years (whether or not rehabilitated), and as such is free of his crime. How can that make sense? The victim's family aren't ever going to be free of pain after 25 years. You might argue the offender will have to re-enter into society and carry the burden of being an ex prisoner, struggle to get jobs etc, but they committed the crime, not the other way round.

    I am sure the liberal minded, Christian human being would want to see the very best in every individual, but I think soapy and bigstemarra are correct in saying these people have done wrong, been proven guilty and a life sentence is more than justified.

    This is not the case. A Life Sentence is exactly that: the criminal carries that sentence for the rest of his life. He is never released from that sentence. A Life Sentence also carries a "tariff" which is the minimum number of years that the criminal will have to serve before a board decides whether he can be release on licence. This means he can continue to serve his sentence, but will no longer be in jail. If he commits any further crimes, or acts outside the terms of his licence, he can be called back inside. There will *never* be a case (or at least, with the current rules, there SHOULD never be a case) where someone serves a set number of years and is then "released" without being rehabilitated.
  • Chizz said:

    a whole life sentence is a big deterrent and some (especially) murderers deserve to rot inside .. parole boards will still be in place to assess when a serious offender is rehabilitated and worthy of release. In the USA such sentences as (e.g.) 30 years with no parole are common ... to my mind this would be worse than a life sentence with a chance of parole. 30 years full stop .. what is the point of the miscreant behaving and rehabilitating himself when there is no advantage to be gained from good behaviour ?

    Is it?

    yes
    It seems to me that it is no deterrent at all. Whole-life tariffs exist today, yet murders continue to be perpetrated. The argument that a whole-life tariff is a deterrent is a myth.
  • Chizz said:

    cabbles said:

    This is a very, very contentious area. Interesting to see in amongst the general Charlton stuff. There are many different issues that will affect people's stance. I for one have to put myself firmly in the 'life means life camp'. I believe that we generally withhold life sentences for the most severe of crimes. I'm not an expert on the law, but it was always my understanding a life sentence is 25 years. This may have changed or is subject to a judge's discretion I don't know. Now if you take murder/manslaughter, the victim and the victim's family have an eternal life sentence of their own to shoulder. The offender is released on parole after 25 years (whether or not rehabilitated), and as such is free of his crime. How can that make sense? The victim's family aren't ever going to be free of pain after 25 years. You might argue the offender will have to re-enter into society and carry the burden of being an ex prisoner, struggle to get jobs etc, but they committed the crime, not the other way round.

    I am sure the liberal minded, Christian human being would want to see the very best in every individual, but I think soapy and bigstemarra are correct in saying these people have done wrong, been proven guilty and a life sentence is more than justified.

    This is not the case. A Life Sentence is exactly that: the criminal carries that sentence for the rest of his life. He is never released from that sentence. A Life Sentence also carries a "tariff" which is the minimum number of years that the criminal will have to serve before a board decides whether he can be release on licence. This means he can continue to serve his sentence, but will no longer be in jail. If he commits any further crimes, or acts outside the terms of his licence, he can be called back inside. There will *never* be a case (or at least, with the current rules, there SHOULD never be a case) where someone serves a set number of years and is then "released" without being rehabilitated.
    As I said, I'm not an expert, I don't know the terminology specifically related to a 'life sentence', such as tariff, licence so on and so forth. You're obviously well read on the subject. And from what I can gather you are basically saying that tariff or number of years should coincide with rehabilitation under the current rules. My point was that I do not believe a tariff is appropriate. You go to prison for a crime at the age of 20 and are given a life sentence carrying 25 years, and are released on licence. It doesn't make sense. A life sentence should be carried out in prison.
  • Rizzo said:

    Wonder how long it will be before Drummer Rigby's murderers are sentenced, now that this is out of the way?

    A week tomorrow.
  • I agree with Chizz and his explanation of the practical effect of the current life sentence and parole. The idea that a life sentence is a deterrent to others is risible. It didn't work with hanging. I doubt that Ronnie and Reggie Kray eagerly looked up the latest Sentencing Guidelines before going out to offend. Back in the 1800s there were vast numbers of offences for which a person could be hanged and gave rise to the saying 'you might as well be hung (for stealing) a sheep as a lamb'. It was well known that at public executions the pickpockets were out in numbers, so no deterrent there. As for capital punishment in this country, it cannot return while we remain part of the EU.
  • cabbles said:

    Chizz said:

    cabbles said:

    This is a very, very contentious area. Interesting to see in amongst the general Charlton stuff. There are many different issues that will affect people's stance. I for one have to put myself firmly in the 'life means life camp'. I believe that we generally withhold life sentences for the most severe of crimes. I'm not an expert on the law, but it was always my understanding a life sentence is 25 years. This may have changed or is subject to a judge's discretion I don't know. Now if you take murder/manslaughter, the victim and the victim's family have an eternal life sentence of their own to shoulder. The offender is released on parole after 25 years (whether or not rehabilitated), and as such is free of his crime. How can that make sense? The victim's family aren't ever going to be free of pain after 25 years. You might argue the offender will have to re-enter into society and carry the burden of being an ex prisoner, struggle to get jobs etc, but they committed the crime, not the other way round.

    I am sure the liberal minded, Christian human being would want to see the very best in every individual, but I think soapy and bigstemarra are correct in saying these people have done wrong, been proven guilty and a life sentence is more than justified.

    This is not the case. A Life Sentence is exactly that: the criminal carries that sentence for the rest of his life. He is never released from that sentence. A Life Sentence also carries a "tariff" which is the minimum number of years that the criminal will have to serve before a board decides whether he can be release on licence. This means he can continue to serve his sentence, but will no longer be in jail. If he commits any further crimes, or acts outside the terms of his licence, he can be called back inside. There will *never* be a case (or at least, with the current rules, there SHOULD never be a case) where someone serves a set number of years and is then "released" without being rehabilitated.
    As I said, I'm not an expert, I don't know the terminology specifically related to a 'life sentence', such as tariff, licence so on and so forth. You're obviously well read on the subject. And from what I can gather you are basically saying that tariff or number of years should coincide with rehabilitation under the current rules. My point was that I do not believe a tariff is appropriate. You go to prison for a crime at the age of 20 and are given a life sentence carrying 25 years, and are released on licence. It doesn't make sense. A life sentence should be carried out in prison.
    The 20 year old with a 25 year tariff would not be released automatically when he's 45. What would happen is that, in 25 years' time, the parole board (eg members of the public, directed by a judge) would decide if he could be released. The problem with a "whole-life" tariff is that we're saying NOW that the person will NEVER be capable making a contribution to "outside life", at any time in the future.

    To me, a "whole-life" tariff just ties the hands of the legal system and prevents what MIGHT be a good decision some time in the future.
  • edited February 2014
    Chizz said:

    Chizz said:

    a whole life sentence is a big deterrent and some (especially) murderers deserve to rot inside .. parole boards will still be in place to assess when a serious offender is rehabilitated and worthy of release. In the USA such sentences as (e.g.) 30 years with no parole are common ... to my mind this would be worse than a life sentence with a chance of parole. 30 years full stop .. what is the point of the miscreant behaving and rehabilitating himself when there is no advantage to be gained from good behaviour ?

    Is it?

    yes
    It seems to me that it is no deterrent at all. Whole-life tariffs exist today, yet murders continue to be perpetrated. The argument that a whole-life tariff is a deterrent is a myth.

    Agreed .. BUT ... It's not so much that murders continue to be committed, more that there would be a lot more if there were not severe deterrent sentences ... even under a death penalty regime, some people will consider that they can beat the odds and not get caught, or a momentary loss of reason/temper can lead to a murder and to hell with the consequences .. I would also add that there is more than one school of thought which advocates the idea that most murders are committed during fits of (temporary ?) insanity and that most 'murderers' should be regarded as mentally ill and not necessarily as criminals .. few murderers commit murder more than once, those that do are more often than not sent to Broadmoor rather than Wakefield or Long Lartin .. 'multiple' murder is surely a sign of serious mental instability


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  • I believe that everybody has the potential to commit murder, and everybody has the potential to rehabilitate. I don't think it is right to completely take away somebody's right to rehabilitation, but a minimum term plus a parole board and life on licence seems fair to me. An unconditional licence but where you are recalled to prison as soon as you are charged with a new offence is fair, helps protect the public and will allow the prisoner to live a normal life should they choose to stay out of trouble.
  • I believe that everybody has the potential to commit murder, and everybody has the potential to rehabilitate. I don't think it is right to completely take away somebody's right to rehabilitation, but a minimum term plus a parole board and life on licence seems fair to me. An unconditional licence but where you are recalled to prison as soon as you are charged with a new offence is fair, helps protect the public and will allow the prisoner to live a normal life should they choose to stay out of trouble.

    I couldn't agree more.
  • As I understand it a whole life term gives an option for that time to be served if thought desirable.

    Parole could still be available if warranted so what's the problem?
  • LenGlover said:

    As I understand it a whole life term gives an option for that time to be served if thought desirable.

    Parole could still be available if warranted so what's the problem?

    It does Len and that is what the Court of Appeal disagreed with the European Court of Human Rights about. The ECHR had claimed it was against a persons Human Rights to be told he/she would never be released. Keeps all the lawyers and activists occupied I suppose.
  • This is always an extremely emotive subject. It depends on what you view the primary function of the prison system as being. Is it for protection of others, rehabilitation or punishment? Personally, if I'm thinking objectively, I'd like to see the prison system as existing primarily to rehabilitate. However, I'm not naive enough to think that there aren't people who can't be (or don't want to be) rehabilitated. I also realise that there are some who need to be kept away from others for the greater good of the rest of society (there are arguments that these individuals should be kept entirely separate from the prison system - i.e. in asylums, but that's a slightly different topic)

    The case of Anders Breivik highlights this argument perfectly. Norway has an extremely liberal policy when it comes to prison sentences (they also have one of the lowest rates of reoffending, but again, that's a different argument). This policy means that Breivik (who is, by anyone's definition of the term, a fucking lunatic) will be eligible for parole in only a few years - despite murdering dozens of people. Will he still be a fucking lunatic when he's up for parole? Yep. However, the judicial system in Norway (as I understand it) will simply have a discussion about it when he's due up, then nod him back to the cells. I don't see anything wrong with that. I do, however, see something wrong with a judicial system that hamstrings even a discussion about a prisoner. What happens if, for instance, there is a complete change in public opinion about a specific crime, but the perpetrator has already been sentenced to 'full life'?

    A difficult question - but I think if people aren't emotive about it, they'll realise that the most sensible way forward is to give people a minimum term, then monitor for future transgressions and haul them back to the clink if they reoffend.

    For this sort of thing taken to its extreme, consider the US 'three strikes' policy - where if you do time twice, then commit a third offence, no matter how minor, you are banged up for life. This has led to thousands of inmates in jail in the US for drug possession, theft or driving offences - costing the US taxpayer hundreds of millions to house, clothe and feed them. That's the very definition of insane.
  • Bring back hanging. Save the taxpayer a mint.
  • Riiiight

    Barry George, Stephen Downing, the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Sally Clark...
  • Prison doesn't work in terms of rehabilitation for tons of reasons I can't be bothered to spell out. Prison also doesn't seem to be much of a deterrent.

    I like the theory of cutting burglars hands off but the reality is different (lifetime of benefits, constant care, same punishment for bloke who thieves a crate of beer as a mugger)

    There is a lot to be said for community service if managed properly and robustly for a host of crimes as opposed to fines and mickey mouse sentences that.

    Unfortunately the solution is probably somewhere in between and involves a huge amount of human interaction and interpretation which means a lot of variables which leads us back to where we are. Under resourced and over worked and getting a lot wrong
  • Carter said:

    Prison doesn't work in terms of rehabilitation for tons of reasons I can't be bothered to spell out. Prison also doesn't seem to be much of a deterrent.

    I like the theory of cutting burglars hands off but the reality is different (lifetime of benefits, constant care, same punishment for bloke who thieves a crate of beer as a mugger)

    There is a lot to be said for community service if managed properly and robustly for a host of crimes as opposed to fines and mickey mouse sentences that.

    Unfortunately the solution is probably somewhere in between and involves a huge amount of human interaction and interpretation which means a lot of variables which leads us back to where we are. Under resourced and over worked and getting a lot wrong


    Just a for instance .. a school friend of mine was a mess at one time .. booze, drugs, fights, burglary .. you name it, he did it .. surprising because he was at base a VERY clever young man .. Eventually he was sent down .. Inside he took plumbing course and qualified .. on release he went into the plumbing business and to my knowledge has never had trouble with minor vices or the law ever since .. he was rehabilitated .. I am sure that this is one example amongst thousands .. remember .. Good News Is NO NEWS .. BAD News overrides good .. a variation of Gresham's Law
  • smiffyboy said:

    Lee rigbys killers were due to be sentanced on Thursday but it got put back further so that this case could be concluded and Judge Sweeney could see the outcome before passing sentanced. Now it has he will sentance and give a whole life tariff

    One has already applied for appeal so not sure how it works if sentence has not yet been set.
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