Liberty welcomes review of dishonest indeterminate sentences

21 June 2011

Alongside today’s newly published sentencing Bill, the Government has announced a review of Orwellian “indefinite periods of imprisonment” under the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

These sentences required courts to predict future risk rather than assess past offending and created an indefinite (effectively a life sentence) for offences which might otherwise have warranted a tariff of as little as two years in prison. They formed part of the last Government’s departure from the common law principle of proportionate punishment for matters proven on evidence in court. This legal limbo undermines rehabilitation, inflates prison numbers and undermines legal certainty and respect for the Criminal Justice System.

Isabella Sankey, Policy Director of Liberty said:

“We welcome the Government’s review of dishonest and destructive indeterminate sentencing which serves neither the rehabilitation of offenders or public trust in the law. It is an old principle of British justice that the punishment should fit the crime. This is how criminal deterrence, offender education and public protection are best served.”

Positive draft measures in the Bill include:

  • The simplification of sentencing more generally.
  • The removal of remand for prisoners unlikely to receive a custodial sentence after trial.
  • Treating 17-year-old remand prisoners as minors rather than adults.

More concerning measures include:

  • Tough sounding community sentences (eg lengthy curfews with tagging) that may not serve public protection, community payback or individual rehabilitation.
  • Passing sentencing decisions to non-judicial authorities.

Contact: Liberty’s press office on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831 128