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Clarke launches new mandatory life sentence

27 October 2011

Justice secretary Ken Clarke has announced that a new mandatory life sentence will be introduced, for a second ‘very serious sexual or violent’ offence. The long list of offences includes manslaughter, rape and wounding with intent together with terrorism offences, child sex offences and ‘causing or allowing the death of a child’.

In a further move the government said an ‘extended determinate sentence’ (EDS) would be introduced for “all dangerous criminals convicted of serious sexual and violent crimes”.

The prime minister announced in June that the government would review the previous government’s indefinite sentences for public protection (IPP) scheme with a view to replacing them with a new regime better understood by the public and commanding greater confidence.

Prisoners under an EDS must serve at least two thirds of their sentence. They will not be released before the end of their sentence without Parole Board approval and will then find themselves on an extended licence period – of five years for violent offenders and eight years for sexual offenders.

“We intend to replace the widely criticised IPP system, which the public doesn’t have confidence in, with a new regime of tough, determinate sentences,” Clarke said. “Under our plans we expect more dangerous offenders to receive life sentences.

“The new regime will restore clarity, coherence and common sense to sentencing, rid us of the inconsistent and confusing IPP regime and give victims a clearer understanding of how long offenders will actually serve in prison.”

The government had already announced that adults convicted of the new offence of ‘aggravated knife possession’ would receive a mandatory six-month sentence.

Clarke said 16 and 17 year olds convicted of the same offence would face a mandatory four-month detention and training order.

He said that any extension of this sentence to children required “very careful consideration” but there was a need to “send out a clear message about the seriousness of juvenile knife crime”.

The new sentencing regime is contained in amendments to the legal aid bill tabled by the government last night.

It is understood to have come after a cabinet battle between Clarke and home secretary Theresa May, which Clarke, who had defended judicial discretion in sentencing earlier this week, was reported as having lost.

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Procedures