The new measure is part of the wide-ranging Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, unveiled today by Chris Grayling, aimed at revamping sentencing and ensuring the courts deliver efficiency for the taxpayer.
The reforms ensure criminals are punished properly, with the scrapping of automatic early release for terrorists and child rapists. Sentencing loopholes will also be closed, with the creation of a new offence for being on the run. Changes to cautions will also help deliver a fairer justice system that will make communities safer.
The ambitious but vital Bill includes plans to:
- Make criminals contribute towards the costs of running the courts system by imposing a new charge at the point of conviction.
- Introduce a new offence with a punishment of up to two years in prison for criminals who go on the run while serving the non-custodial element of their sentence.
- End the automatic half-way point release for criminals convicted of rape or attempted rape of a child, or serious terrorism offences, and no longer automatically releasing offenders who receive the tough Extended Determinate Sentence (EDS) two-thirds of the way through their custodial term.
- Ban the possession of explicit pornography that shows images depicting rape. It is currently illegal to publish this material, and the new legislation will close a loophole to also prevent possession.
- Stop criminals receiving cautions for serious offences, and for less serious offences stop them receiving a second caution for the same, or similar, offence committed in a two-year period.
- Create four new criminal offences of juror misconduct to ensure fair trials and prevent miscarriages of justice.
- Put education at the heart of youth custody by introducing secure colleges, a new form of secure educational establishment for young offenders.
- Support economic growth by speeding up the Judicial Review process with measures to drive out meritless claims and get rid of time-wasting delays.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:
“My priority with these reforms is to deliver a tough package of sentencing measures to make sure offenders are punished properly and consistently, so that the law-abiding majority know that we’re making the changes needed to keep them and their families safe. I also what to make sure we reduce the burden on hardworking taxpayers of the costs of running the courts.
“The public expects that serious and repeat criminals should be punished appropriately, and that those who are jailed should have to earn the right to be released early from prison. It is only right that those offenders who break the law and try to avoid serving the entirety of their sentence by going on the run face additional punishment when they are caught.
“From my first day in this job I have been clear that people must have confidence in our justice system. We’re on the side of people who work hard and want to get on, and that is why these reforms will make sure that those who commit crime pay their way and contribute towards the cost of their court cases.”
The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill proposes the following changes to the law:
New Offences of Juror Misconduct: To reflect the changes to modern society, four new offences of juror misconduct will be introduced – researching details of a case (including any online research), sharing details of the research with other jurors, disclosing details of juror deliberation and engaging in other prohibited conduct.
New Criminal Offence of being Unlawfully At Large: Criminals who go on the run will face an additional sentence of up to two years. Offenders who have been released from the custodial part of their sentence and are recalled to custody because they have breached their strict licence conditions but do not surrender to custody are unlawfully at large. Once apprehended they may serve the remainder of their sentence but currently there is no additional punishment for these offenders.
Ending Automatic Early Release for Paedophiles and Terrorists: Criminals convicted of rape or attempted rape of a child or serious terrorism offences will no longer be automatically released at the half-way point of their prison sentence. Under proposals in the Bill they would only be released before the end of their custodial term at the discretion of the independent Parole Board. Alongside this, no criminals who receive the tough Extended Determinate Sentence (EDS) will be released automatically two-thirds of the way into their custodial term. This means that many of them will end up spending significantly more time in prison. In total these changes will affect about 500 offenders per year.
Clampdown on Cautions for Serious and Repeat Offenders: Criminals will no longer be able to receive a caution for the most serious offences such as rape and robbery and for a range of other serious ‘either way’ offences, for example possession of any offensive weapon, supplying Class A drugs or a range of sexual offences against children. For less serious offences, criminals will also no longer be able to receive a second caution for the same, or similar, offence committed in a two year period. In total these changes are likely to affect around 14,000 offenders a year.
Life Sentences for More Terrorist Offences: The maximum sentence for three terrorist offences - weapons training for terrorist purposes, other training for terrorism and making or possession of explosives, will be increased to a life sentence. Terrorists convicted of a second very serious offence will face the ‘two strikes’ automatic life sentence.
Charging Offenders for Court Costs: Convicted criminals will be made to pay towards the cost of running the country’s criminal courts. All convicted adult offenders will have to pay a charge; the money will be reinvested back into the running of the courts.
Single Magistrates to Handle Low-Level Cases: More than three quarters of a million low-level ‘regulatory cases’, such as TV licence evasion and road tax evasion, may be dealt with by a single magistrate rather than a bench of two or three. Legislation will allow a procedure to enable some summary-only, non-imprisonable offences to be dealt with by a single magistrate, supported by a legal adviser, away from traditional magistrates’ courtrooms.
Banning Violent Rape Pornography: Possession of explicit pornography that shows images depicting rape will become illegal. It is currently illegal to publish this material and the new legislation will close a loophole to also prevent possession.
Overhauling Detention of Young Offenders : The rehabilitation of young offenders will be overhauled by introducing secure colleges. Led by a principal, the secure college will put education at the heart of youth rehabilitation. The legislation follows the announcement on 17 January that a pathfinder secure college will be opened in the East Midlands in 2017.
Increase Juror Age Limit : People aged 75 and under will be able to sit as jurors in England and Wales. The move is part of a drive to make the criminal justice system more inclusive and to reflect modern society by giving more people the opportunity to serve on a jury. The current age limit is 70.
Judicial Review Reform: Economic growth will be supported by measures to speed up the Judicial Review process and reduce the number of meritless claims clogging the system, as part of a wider package of reforms also being announced today.