In the Media

Indeterminate sentences

PUBLISHED February 7, 2007

How did a man found guilty of setting fire to a wheelie bin receive what could in effect be a life sentence?

Since April 2005, judges have had a duty to impose indeterminate sentences on those found guilty of certain specified offences if they are deemed to pose 'a significant risk of serious harm'.

The law was introduced to deal with the problem of convicted paedophiles who were entitled to release from prison at the end of their sentences even though they were still regarded by experts as a risk to children.

In practice, this new type of sentence is mainly being used not for those sexually abusing children but for those guilty of much lesser crimes.

Interviewees include:

  • Arlette Piercy, barrister
  • Prof Nigel Eastman, forensic psychiatrist.

Joining Clive to discuss the issue are:

  • David Rose, an Observer journalist who has taken a particular interest in the use of indeterminate sentences: and
  • Prof Tony Maden, a forensic psychiatrist who believes that the government was right to introduce this new type of sentence.