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Medical Practitioners and Dentists (Professional Negligence Insurance)

Dr. Desmond Turner accordingly presented a Bill to require the holding of professional negligence insurance as a condition of registration to practise in medicine or dentistry: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 11 July, and to be printed [Bill 111].

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Orders of the Day

Criminal Justice Bill

[3rd Alloted Day]

As amended in the Standing Committee, further considered.

Government New Clause 30

Determination of Minimum Term in Relation to Mandatory Life Sentence

'(1) This section applies where after the commencement of this section a court passes a life sentence in circumstances where the sentence is fixed by law.
(2) The court must, unless it makes an order under subsection (4), order that the provisions of section 28(5) to (8) of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 (c. 43) (referred to in this Chapter as "the early release provisions") are to apply to the offender as soon as he has served the part of his sentence which is specified in the order.
(3) The part of his sentence is to be such as the court considers appropriate taking into account—
(a) the seriousness of the offence, or of the combination of the offence and any one or more offences associated with it, and
(b) the effect of any direction which it would have given under section 222 (crediting periods of remand in custody) if it had sentenced him to a term of imprisonment.
(4) If the offender was 21 or over when he committed the offence and the court is of the opinion that, because of the seriousness of the offence, or of the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it, no order should be made under subsection (2), the court must order that the early release provisions are not to apply to the offender.
(5) In considering under subsection (3) or (4) the seriousness of an offence (or of the combination of an offence and one or more offences associated with it), the court must have regard to—
(a) the general principles set out in Schedule (Determination of minimum term in relation to mandatory life sentence), and
(b) any guidelines relating to offences in general which are relevant to the case and are not incompatible with the provisions of Schedule (Determination of minimum term in relation to mandatory life sentence).
(6) The Secretary of State may by order amend Schedule (Determination of minimum term in relation to mandatory life sentence).'.—[Mr. Blunkett.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

1.28 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett) : I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker : With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government new clause 31—Duty to give reasons.

Government new clause 32—Appeals.

Government new clause 33—Review of minimum term on reference by Attorney General.

Government new clause 34—Life prisoners transferred to England and Wales.

Government new clause 35—Further provisions about references relating to transferred life prisoners.

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Government new clause 36—Duty to release certain life prisoners.

Government new clause 37—Mandatory life sentences: transitional cases.

Government new clause 38—Interpretation of Chapter.

Government new clause 39—Increase in penalties for certain driving-related offences causing death—and amendment (a) thereto.

Government new clause 46—Minimum sentence for certain firearms offences—and amendments (a) and (b) thereto.

Government new clause 47—Certain firearms offences to be triable only on indictment.

Government new clause 48—Power to sentence young offender to detention in respect of certain firearms offences: England and Wales.

Government new clause 49—Power to sentence young offender to detention in respect of certain firearms offences: Scotland.

Government new clause 50—Power by order to exclude application of minimum sentence to those under 18.

Government new clause 51—Increase in penalty for offences relating to importation of exportation of certain firearms—and amendments (a) and (b) thereto.

New clause 7—Prohibition on mandatory sentences.

New clause 9—Penalty for causing death by dangerous driving.

Government amendments Nos. 426 to 429, 223, 430, 224, 436 and 437, 228 and 229, 438 to 440 and 431.

Government new clause 41—Mode of trial for certain firearms offences: transitory arrangements.

Government amendments Nos. 325 to 330, 338, 342, 225, 432, 441, 303, 305, 442, 230, 226, 434 and 435, 227 and 259.

Government new schedule 2—Determination of minimum term in relation to mandatory life sentence—and amendments (a) to (j) thereto.

Government new schedule 3—Mandatory life sentences: transitional cases.

Mr. Blunkett: I shall speak to new clauses 30 to 38, with regard to sentencing for murder, new clause 39 on increasing penalties for driving offences causing death, and new clauses 46 to 51 relating to firearms offences. These proposals should be seen in the light of the overall changes that we are making to provide a sensible framework. First, in the Bill we have outlined the purpose of sentencing, on which there is accord across the House. Secondly, we have established the principles and a framework within which the judiciary can use its discretion. Thirdly, and crucially, by offering a clear response to public concerns and establishing clarity and consistency in the sentencing framework, Parliament will see a role for itself. In my view, no disagreement exists between the Government and the judiciary about the fact that it should have the discretion to make decisions in relation to individual cases. We do not intend for the new clauses and amendments to interfere with that. We want to reassert the role of Parliament that historically existed when considering cases of

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murder, and to ensure that there is clarity and a response to public concern about issues relating to driving, the carrying of guns and the use of firearms. I hope that there will be more light than heat this afternoon, and I intend to deliver the justification for the new measures in that vein rather than taking a bombastic approach on the need for greater responsiveness to public demand.

1.30 pm

There is no question but that the public are bewildered by how sentences can be reached when they know that the crime that has been committed was so heinous that there could be only one sentence: life should mean life. When the death penalty was abolished—I am wholly in favour of that—it was presumed that those who committed such an act against their fellow human beings would go down for the rest of their lives. There was a presumption that the removal of judicial murder would safeguard the interests of the community and send appropriate signals to both perpetrators and the wider community to show that we understood the nature of what was being done and those who perpetrated such heinous crimes.

As Home Secretary, I have had the privilege and trauma of examining cases for which tariffs were set in which people had committed the worst possible crimes in our community. In cases such as those involving crimes against children, we have to consider not only people who have committed murder—horrendous though that is—but their actions and behaviour before the murder. I take no pleasure in saying this but it is important for people to know that those who have read the cases on to tape for me have done so in tears. The horrendous nature of the cases and the decisions that must be taken are such that it is difficult to get inside the minds of, or to predict the likely future actions of, the people with whom we are dealing.

I do not apologise for saying that successive Home Secretaries of all political persuasions have intended that we should not only send a signal to, but deal decisively with, those who threaten the life and limb of others, by saying that such people should be given life sentences that would literally put them away for the rest of their lives. We are talking about such cases as multiple and sadistic killings, and when terrorists take the lives of others. In more traditional terms, before suicide bombing occurred, there was at least a way of sending signals to and getting retribution from terrorists. We are talking about incidents of child murder, which I have described, and the way in which people abused others before committing such a crime.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): The Home Secretary is addressing a matter of utmost importance. While accepting that in several cases life most certainly should mean life and that it is unimaginable that there could be any mitigating circumstance that would allow an exemption from that edict, is he arguing for life to mean life in cases of heinous crimes on the basis of a commitment to justice or retribution, or is he motivated by a consideration of the capacity to deter?

Mr. Blunkett: I am motivated, as is indicated by the sentencing framework and the new purposes of

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sentencing, by the desire to show those who are engaged in such actions that there will be clear and unequivocal consequences. Such people are often the associates of those who are the instrument of the intended murder or those drawn into the situation because, on several occasions, more than one person has been engaged in the most horrendous murders. I am also engaged, as the guidelines on sentencing and on the purposes of sentencing set out, with the need to punish. Punishment means that there is an element of retribution on behalf of society. Those aims are not the least bit contradictory and that is why we were careful to ensure that they were not contradictory in the provisions on the purposes of sentencing.

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