‘Whole Life Orders’ in UK

Recent news from the UK has highlighted a significant legal development – the introduction of mandatory “whole life orders” for the most heinous crimes.

This topic of “‘Whole Life Orders’ in UK” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Implementation of Whole Life Orders in the UK

Mandatory Imposition

The UK is set to introduce a mandatory requirement for judges to impose whole life orders in cases involving the worst killers. This means that individuals convicted of the most horrific murders will receive a sentence that ensures they remain in prison for the entirety of their lives.

Planned Legislation Details

  • Whole Life Order: This is a sentencing mechanism where offenders are never considered for parole and may only be released on compassionate grounds or at the discretion of the Home Secretary.
  • Default Sentence: Whole life orders are planned to be the default sentence for sexually motivated murders.

Rationale Behind Mandatory Whole Life Orders

Public Protection

The primary motivation behind mandatory whole life orders is to protect the public from the most dangerous offenders. There is a legal expectation on judges to hand down these orders except in extremely limited circumstances.

Legal Confidence for Judges

The introduction of this mandatory requirement aims to provide judges with the legal confidence to impose whole life orders without the risk of challenges in the Courts of Appeal.

Significance of Whole Life Orders

Rarity of Whole Life Orders

Whole life orders are rare and have been applied to a limited number of cases. As of June 30, there were 65 prisoners subject to whole life orders, according to the Sentencing Council for England and Wales.

How Whole Life Orders Work

Current Process

  • When passing a life sentence, a judge specifies a minimum term that an offender must serve before becoming eligible for parole.
  • If released, the offender is placed on licence for life and can be recalled to prison if they are deemed to pose a risk to the public.

Notable Facts and Cases

Recent Case

A recent high-profile case involves nurse Lucy Letby, who was labeled the most prolific serial child killer. She was convicted of murdering seven babies in a hospital setting and was handed a whole life order.

Historical Context

  • In the 1980s, the Home Secretary held the authority to decide the minimum term that life-sentence prisoners needed to serve before being considered for parole.
  • In 2002, this system was successfully challenged on the grounds that punishment should be determined by an independent tribunal, rather than a politician.

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