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The law on murder and proposed reform

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Introduction

Suzanne Bembridge The law on murder and proposed reform The law on murder is a mess and should be reviewed for the first time in more than half a century. A major overhaul is required including a re-think of whether murder should always carry a life sentence. It could be argued that one area which might be worth looking at is the question of whether or not it's right to have the same offence to cover cases where there is an intention to kill, as well as cases where there is not an intention to kill. A solution could be to grade the different types of murder and give them different recommended sentences so that the sentence reflects the seriousness of the offence. However, there is never any neat distinction between these cases, which you would need in order to do this. Also, the Home Office have said that mandatory life sentences will not be abolished and argued that courts already have flexibility in sentencing murderers because they can impose minimum terms. ...read more.

Middle

If the defence of provocation was reformed it would acknowledge that society does not accept extreme violence as a response to actions or insults which do not include physical threats and it would eliminate the historical anomaly in the law that excuses killings based on anger. It would also alleviate the fear that the defence is being used by men to kill women and it would remove the problems associated with complicated charges to the jury. The Law Commission said the defence should apply if the accused "acted in response to gross provocation" which caused them to have a "justifiable sense of being seriously wronged", or in response to a "fear of serious violence towards the defendant or another". The experts did not recommend creating a separate partial defence to murder which would allow a defendant to claim they acted in self-defence despite using excessive force - the so-called "Tony Martin" defence after the Norfolk farmer who shot and killed 16-year-old burglar Fred Barras in August 1999. The reform of the law on murder would be the first wholesale re-examination of the subject since the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment from 1949 to 1953, which led to the Homicide Act in 1957. ...read more.

Conclusion

Amanda's uncle, Lewis Champion, told the BBC News website Ford did not deserve any credit for his plea, saying: "Nothing at all is worth taking five years off a murder sentence." Lord Woolf's Sentencing Guidelines Council (SGC) have caused controversy by suggesting a one third discount off sentences for early guilty pleas in all types of crime. As a result murderers who face a 15-year tariff could get five years knocked off if they give themselves up to the police. The SGC should reconsider its proposals to reflect Parliament's wish that murder should be treated as a separate category of offence. In the case of murder, reduction in sentence for a guilty plea should not be granted in addition to reductions for other mitigating circumstances. Although it could be argued that by making provision for murder tariffs, Parliament sent a clear signal that it expects murder to be treated differently to other offences. Some may also argue that guilty plea discounts could have potential benefits for victims and witnesses by avoiding the trauma of a trial. Reducing murder sentences due to an early plea sends out the wrong signals to violent criminals and completely undermines the government's claim to be tough on crime. ...read more.

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