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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Increasing Offences to Face Life Sentences, A. Smith

Increasing Offences to Face Life Sentences
 A. Smith

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has proposed changes to those offences faced with mandatory life sentences. As discussed on BBC News, this includes those who have been convicted of a second serious sexual or violent crime in England and Wales.
Violent or sexual offences were not the only crimes listed to potentially receive increased sentences; those 16 and 17-year-olds who have threatened someone with a knife could face mandatory custodial sentences which could result in an additional 400 young people being in custody per year.

Some young people were asked their thoughts and said this new mandatory sentence is not the way forward. As discussed on BBC Newsbeat, some young people said that the lawmakers are not understanding the reason WHY youth carry a knife in the first place. Their concerns were that some young people carry a knife because they are scared and they use it as a means of protection. Other young people commented and said that the new sentence would not act as a deterrent for young people – if they are going to carry a knife they will do it with or without the threat of consequences.

Currently offenders can be sentenced to an indeterminate sentence. This means that the offender can remain in custody until the parole board decides that they are no longer a threat to society. Indeterminate sentences are known to increase strain and stress on offenders and instead of participating in programs and focusing on how to become a better person, they are constantly thinking about and worried about the fact that they have no idea when they can be let out of custody. If you have been in custody for a long while and have started to become institutionalised, leaving custody can be just as frightening as arriving to custody.

With regards to the new sentences for knife crime, offenders could receive an automatic four-month detention and training order. On the first day of November the House of Commons will debate these new measures and potentially add them to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill which is, at the moment, going through Parliament.

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What are your comments regarding life sentences for a second violent or sexual offence? Do you agree or disagree with this approach?
Do you think the new mandatory custodial sentence for 16 and 17 year olds who threaten with a knife will act as a deterrent or do you think this could potentially be another method of net-widening?

A. Smith 

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