Irish Penal Reform Trust

UK: 'Murder life sentence overhaul would get public support, reformers claim'

6th December 2011

The Homicide Advisory Review Group (HARC) argue that the public would support changing the penalty for murder to make life imprisonment a maximum rather than a mandatory sentence. 

The report relies on findings from research published in 2010 by Nuffield Foundation which found "no widespread support for automatically sentencing all convicted murderers to life imprisonment".

Although the HARC recognises that this research will not overturn long held beliefs about public opinion, it is argued that the findings "seriously challenge some political and policy positions". According to the HARC, a publicity campaign, highlighting that murder varies in gravity from the serial killer to those who aid the death of a terminally ill relative, could help significantly in changing public opinion about mandatory sentencing.  

If mandatory sentencing were abolished, life sentences could still be imposed in the more serious cases but there would no longer be a need to maintain "artificial distinctions between murder and manslaughter".

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