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Kenneth Clarke announces 'two strikes' life sentencing for violent offences

PUBLISHED October 27, 2011

Proposals seek to extend mandatory life sentences to offences other than murder for first time Only 20 criminals currently serving indeterminate sentences would have been caught by the government's new "two strikes" mandatory life sentences for violent and sexual offences, Kenneth Clarke has said. The justice secretary said the sentencing proposals ? which seek to extend mandatory life sentences to an offence other than murder for the first time ? were a replacement for Labour's "unjust" indeterminate sentences, which have left 6,500 prisoners without a set release date. In amendments published on Wednesday, the government also introduced a mandatory minimum four-month prison sentence for 16 and 17-year-olds found guilty of "aggravated" knife offences, despite open opposition to the move from Clarke. The proposals have been rushed in as last-minute amendments to the legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill, which is already on its third reading in parliament. The announcement of the new sentencing regime followed a fierce cabinet battle. It marks a return to a more traditional Conservative "lock 'em up" approach to law and order by the coalition, and deals a further blow to Clarke's hopes of a more liberal penal policy that would stabilise the prison population. The justice secretary is reported to have repeatedly clashed with the home secretary, Theresa May, over the new knife guidelines, with the matter believed to have only been settled by the intervention of David Cameron on Wednesday. Clarke appears to have won a concession that children under 16 will not be affected. In what appeared to be a nod to liberal sentiments, Clarke said judges already had the ability to give life sentences for the most serious offences and that the new mandatory sentences would only be reserved for "ultra serious criminals" only. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Thursday, he said: "A mandatory life sentence would catch 20 or so, I should think. And they are people who, although they hadn't committed murder, are pretty murderous ? and it's probably the skill of the medical profession that is stopping them being up for murder." Describing indeterminate sentences as "populist nonsense" and a "gross injustice", the justice secretary said he was returning to "long, firm mandatory sentences." "In one direction, I'm getting rid of this gross injustice, a stain on our system, the indeterminate sentence," he added. "In the other direction, I'm saying if you're really worried about very serious people ?it's a mandatory life sentence" The new sentencing regime includes: ? A four-month mandatory custodial sentence for aggravated knife possession for 16 and 17-year-olds, but not for younger children. Those convicted of using a knife or offensive weapon to threaten and endanger will be given a four-month detention and training order. Adults are to face an automatic six-month sentence for the same offence. ? A "two strikes and you're out" mandatory life sentence for anyone convicted of a second very serious sexual or violent offence, extending the life sentence beyond murder for the first time. ? An extended determinate sentence (EDS) for dangerous criminals convicted of a serious and violent sexual crimes, who will serve at least two-thirds, scrapping the current consideration of parole at the halfway point. Release for those in the most serious category serving this sentence will require the approval of the parole board, and those paroled will be under recall licence for at least 10 years. ? An extended licence period. Those who have served an EDS will have to serve a further period on licence ? an extra five years for sex offenders and eight years for violent offenders ? during which they can be recalled to prison if necessary. Kenneth Clarke David Cameron Theresa May Liberal-Conservative coalition Conservatives Sentencing UK criminal justice Prisons and probation Shiv Malik Alan Travis © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds