The four walls of a prison cell, are the new permanent home for those convicted of ‘horrendous’ and ‘calculated’ crimes under the age of 18.

Changes?

Robert Buckland QC is to launch the White Paper for a smarter approach to sentencing. This launch was provoked by the sentencing of Hashem Abedi, in which the government has proposed to lower the age of life without parole. 

Essentially keep convicted criminals in prison forever.

The long-awaited sentencing of Hashem Abedi took place this year. Three years after the heart retching mass murder took place. Abedi was found guilty as an accomplice of his brother Salman Abedi for murdering 22 people in the Manchester Arena attack in May 2017. Abedi was sentenced to 55 years in prison, which was deemed to be a light sentence to the pain he facilitated. Sentencing Judge, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker handed Abedi a 55-year sentence though he said it would have been desirable to sentence Abedi to life without parole for his crimes. 

So why was he not sentenced to life without parole?

At the time of his crime, Abedi was 20, the life means life sentencing under The Criminal Justice Act 2003 would not apply to him because he was under the age 21. Thus, it would not have been feasible for the judge to sentence him to life without parole. As a result of this, the government is now pushing for life means life sentence for those under the age of 18.

So, what’s the change?

Boris Johnson has announced that the new life means a life sentence. This new sentencing practice will lower the age of life without parole from 21 to 18. Johnson believes that this will  restore the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system and ensure that the public feel and are kept safe. The protection of the public is a priority. Thus, such reforms will ensure that dangerous offenders are kept in prison for longer. 

Johnson has explained that his intention to invoke the new sentencing measures is not to permanently punish offenders for mistakes made in their youth. Rather it is to punish offenders who are ‘calculated’ in their crimes. If you are a young person culpable to plan a mass murder, a premeditated murder such as the Manchester Arena Bombing in 2017. Then your age seizes to be a matter of conversation as you have proved to be mature enough to rationalise such a crime.

Problems?

Sentencing is a paramount process of the criminal justice system. It is important to get it right. In previous years dangerous offenders have been released from prison only to commit despicable acts of violence. This is exemplified in the 209 London Bridge attack. Thus, it is the duty of the justice system to ensure that the public is adequately protected against violent offenders. 

However, it will clearly need to be defined how a crime is deemed as ‘calculated’. Would this mean that if you had a problem with a particular individual over a long period of time and intentionally went to their location in which a murder subsequently took place? Would you be deemed as calculated in that capacity? 

It would be incredibly understandable if life means a life sentence is to be applied to genocide and terrorist crimes. But, even in such circumstances, people would argue that a young person was manipulated and used. Thus, how would it have been calculated?

How ethical is it to sentence someone under the age of 18 to life without parole? Psychological studies have shown that the rational part of a teenager’s brain does not fully develop until the age of 25. So how can one be calculated in their crime, if they are not deemed to be fully developed? 

Food for thought…?

  • What will it cost the public to keep someone incarcerated for life?
  • If punishment is to rehabilitate, how will one be rehabilitated if they do not have a parole date?
  • How will tougher sentencing be a deterrent to offenders?
  • How will the rule of joint enterprise be used to give a sentence of life without parole?

Are reforms, really reforms? Because in some capacity this new push for life without parole for young offenders echoes the former Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentencing abolished in 2012.

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