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Life Imprisonment...or not?

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1294734.  Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:11 pm Reply with quote

Sorry people, but I'm bloody livid.

This dangerous man is sentenced to LIFE in prison and then told that he can apply for parole in 6 years and 117 days. He will be 32, fit and healthy, and will only need to pretend to be rehabilitated, and could then be back on the streets to repeat his actions. It's bad enough that he was released on bail several times before being brought to trial, but the women involved will be living in terror for the rest of their days. When, when, when will the legal profession learn that these sort of people need to be removed. Permanently. Life imprisonment must mean life.

I'm sorry if this is a rant too far, but although I have no daughters, I do have two nieces and I would happily kill anyone who raped either of them, even if I ended up behind bars.

1294741.  Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:35 pm Reply with quote

No argument here mate.

Alexander Howard
1294750.  Fri Sep 07, 2018 6:00 pm Reply with quote

It's a system no one really understands, least of all, I suspect, those who run the system.

A life sentence means life in the sense of having prison hanging over you your whole life: lifers are only released "on licence" and can be sent back inside if they misbehave. The judge will say "life" but recommend a minimum term (which might be 'never to be released' in a few cases). After the sentence and the recommendation, it is left to the Parole Board to decide when or whether to let the prisoner out.

Six and a half years does not look like life. (The odd "6 years and 117 days" will be because he has been in custody awaiting trial, so that time is taken into account: '7 years less the time you've served already'.) What does a judge do though? He may just have sentenced a murderer to life with a recommended 15-year minimum, so does he then treat a violent rapist as equivalent to transgression of the ultimate?

I am very glad I am not a judge, with that sort of responsibility.

1294763.  Sat Sep 08, 2018 4:23 am Reply with quote

It's really quite simple in principle. If the sentence is "life", then you die in prison. I realise that it might take legislation to make that a possibility, and that legislation may not go through without protest, but the principle is still very simple. It is the admin that is the problem.

1294767.  Sat Sep 08, 2018 5:30 am Reply with quote

There is no new legislation needed for a sentence of that sort.
A sentence of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole is called a 'whole life order' and judges already have the power to assign these.

A 'life sentence', as Alexander says, means 'imprisonment or parole for life' (while the 'minimum tariff' describes the minimum time served until eligible for parole). That seems a perfectly reasonable concept to have as a sentencing tool, but I feel it ought to be renamed to give people a less misleading impression of what it means as a sentence.

That would at least help clarify the debate as to whether current sentencing guidelines are too lenient or not.

1294795.  Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:16 pm Reply with quote

Yeah or... we could keep a maximum sentence for anything at around 20 years and increase it *if* at the end the offender isn't rehabilitated.

Making a safer and more civilized society :)

1294799.  Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:40 pm Reply with quote

That's an idea, a sort of reverse parole. Time on for bad behaviour sort of thing.......

1294805.  Sat Sep 08, 2018 2:23 pm Reply with quote

We had something like that between 2005 and 2012 in the form of IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) sentences.
(though these were generally for crimes that didn't initially merit a life sentence)

It was ultimately deemed that issuing sentences for unspecified periods was a breach of human rights:

1294809.  Sat Sep 08, 2018 3:55 pm Reply with quote

Interesting - how does Norway get around it?

1294818.  Sat Sep 08, 2018 6:45 pm Reply with quote

Good question. I'm not sure yet.

Some further reading on the ruling on IPPs indicates that the situation in English and Welsh law was particularly egregious in that prisoners were being held for years on end after their recommended sentence had passed, simply because the prisons didn't have the resources to perform any rehabilitation activities or assessments.

There's an article here regarding extended sentences in Scottish law, which sounds similar to the Norwegian approach:

It seems the important factor in that case is that the sentences are extended in fixed increments, and by order of the courts, so the prisoner always has a fixed release date at any given time, which is set by a proper judicial authority. In contrast, the IPPs offered no clear deadlines for rehabilitation assessments, and relied on the satisfaction of someone other than the courts before release could be granted.

The UK response to the ECHR ruling seems to have been that it was easier to scrap IPPs, and replace them with greater use of life sentences, and stricter parole licencing, than to resource the prisons to implement them properly.

1294843.  Sun Sep 09, 2018 5:15 am Reply with quote


Thanks for the explanation :)

1294991.  Tue Sep 11, 2018 5:54 am Reply with quote

crissdee wrote:
It's really quite simple in principle. If the sentence is "life", then you die in prison.

If someone is old and decrepit and of no threat to society, does it serve any purpose to spend large sums of public money to keep them behind bars?

Clearly this is a hypothetical question, not directly related to the case discussed in the original post.

1295010.  Tue Sep 11, 2018 6:58 am Reply with quote

That is a fair point dr.bob, and is part of the reason I would argue for retaining the option of a capital sentence, but we don't really need to go down that route again, previous journeys have gone nowhere ultimately.

1295021.  Tue Sep 11, 2018 7:44 am Reply with quote

dr.bob wrote:
If someone is old and decrepit and of no threat to society, does it serve any purpose to spend large sums of public money to keep them behind bars?

Not really contributing to the question being asked, but:

Would it be a large sum of money?

Open prisons (the type where you'd expect decrepit people deemed no threat to be held) are the cheapest type of prison to run, at somewhere between 16,000 and 25,000 per place depending what you include in the calculation (compared to up to 65,000 per place for the most expensive prisons).

If you release an old, decrepit prisoner, you have to start paying his pension and provide him with somewhere to live. In central London state pension, pension credit and housing benefit alone would be more than the 16,000 low-end cost of a prison place.

1295061.  Tue Sep 11, 2018 3:28 pm Reply with quote

They had Rory Stewart and Richard Burgon on the radio this morning talking about women in prison (some sort of reform proposal) and the figure quoted for keeping someone inside who is a pest rather than a danger (so kept in a low security establishment) was 47000 per year


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