Take a life and you should serve a full life sentence, says STEPHEN POLLARD

Home Secretary Priti Patel

Home Secretary Priti Patel speaking at the Police Superintendents' Association Conference (Image: Getty)

There is something uniquely vile about the murder of a child. But that has never stopped some people from campaigning on their behalf. When Moors Murderer Myra Hindley was still alive and in prison, there were those who demanded that she be released, supposedly out of humanity. Hindley died in hospital but spent most of her adult life in prison. That was how it should have been – and how it should be for other child killers.

But Frances Crook, the director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, attacked the Tory pledge as “blood lust”.

It is also, she said, “at best irrelevant”.

Others joined in, echoing her point that there are very few such cases in any given year.

One commentator said: “The number of cases this will apply to is virtually nil. It is a distraction.” 

In one sense, of course, they are right.

The number of adult child killers is – thank God – very small.

Priti Patel

Priti Patel seems determined to change the justice system (Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty)

But the conclusion they draw is the precise opposite of what they should be arguing.

Because the issue isn’t that the Tories are wrong to insist that child killers should serve a genuine life sentence because there are so few cases.

It is that we need to extend the principle to other killers.

On average, about 300 people are sentenced each year to life for murder.

In total, there are some 5,500 people in prison with such a sentence. 

And every year, more than 200 of them are freed on licence. 

The ­average murderer serves 16 years inside. 

The outrage is not that the Conservatives are pledging that all adult child ­killers will serve a genuine life sentence through a whole life order. 

It should be that they are not making such a pledge for others. 

The Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, rightly spoke yesterday of the “sickening” spectacle of parents seeing the killer of their child walk free. 

Who could disagree? 

But it is equally sickening to see other callous murderers walk out of jail and return to a relatively normal life. 

This is dismissed by bien pensant liberals as “populist”. 

When Home Secretary, Priti Patel, speaks candidly about her role and says she wants criminals “to literally feel terror”, she is attacked by the chattering classes.

But what she shows has an instinctive understanding of the revulsion most of us feel at a criminal justice system that all too often allows criminals to gain the upper hand. 

Earlier this year it was revealed that in 2018, thousands of burglars who had committed at least five break-ins were not even handed a prison sentence – 3,253 walked out of court after being convicted. 

One had committed 26 ­burglaries and had never been jailed. 

On average, a burglar has to have had 12 previous convictions before being sent to jail. 

Myra Hindley

Myra Hindley (right) with her sister Maureen (Image: Sunday People/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty)

The message that we send to criminals is that we don’t really care what they do. 

However tough the language used by politicians may be, the facts show something else. 

And that is a message that Miss Patel seems determined to change. 

Last year there were 285 fatal stabbings in England and Wales, the highest number in the 70 years since records began. 

As we have seen, those convicted of murder can expect to walk out of prison after just 16 years on average. 

This is wrong on every level. 

It is wrong as punishment. 

It is wrong as a deterrent to others. 

And it is wrong as a means of instilling confidence in the justice ­system. 

Two years ago, Met Commissioner Cressida Dick spoke of how young thugs are “simply not fearful of how the state will respond to their actions”. She was quite right to insist that “harsher and more effective” jail terms are ­necessary for teenagers who repeatedly offend. 

It is equally true for adults. 

Knife crime, for example, is still treated with kid gloves. 

In 2016 nearly 82,000 crimes were committed by someone who had been handed only a community order for an earlier offence – 1,864 of these involved possession of a weapon. 

Indeed last year one man was convicted of possession of a blade 21 times before being sent to prison. 

In an ideal world, criminal justice would not have to be a political football. 

But we do not live in that world. 

That means issues of security and safety are vital election issues. 

And it is entirely right that the Conservatives are speaking language that will resonate with the public. 

That is sensible and correct. 

Let's block ads! (Why?)

Share on google plus
    Google Comments
    Facebook Comments


Post a Comment