The mandatory life sentence for murder: An argument for judicial discretion in England

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In 1965, alongside the abolition of capital punishment, a mandatory life sentence for murder was implemented in England and Wales. The mandatory life sentence served as a signal to the public that the criminal justice system would still implement the most severe sanction of life imprisonment in cases of murder. Nearly 50 years later, this article examines whether the imposition of a mandatory life sentence for murder is still in the best interests of justice or whether English homicide law would be better served by a discretionary sentencing system. In doing so, the article considers debates surrounding the political and public need for a mandatory life sentence for murder by drawing upon interviews conducted with 29 members of the English criminal justice system. This research concludes that a discretionary sentencing framework is required to adequately respond to the many contexts within which the crime of murder is committed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)506 - 525
Number of pages20
JournalCriminology & Criminal Justice
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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