Child rapists and terrorists will no longer be automatically released half-way through their sentence, as part of a range of tough new laws that have received Royal Assent today.
The measures in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act will mean these serious criminals can only be released before the end of their prison term under strict conditions at the discretion of the independent Parole Board. Offenders will have to show they no longer pose a threat to the public.
Under previous laws, these serious offenders would have been released at the half-way point of their sentence, regardless of whether or not they had taken steps to change their behaviour.
In addition, the maximum sentence for three terrorist offences – weapons training for terrorist purposes, other training for terrorism and making or possessing of explosives - will be increased to a life sentence by the Act. Terrorists convicted of a second very serious offence could face the “two strikes” automatic life sentence.
The Act contains a number of other changes to toughen sentencing, including stopping offenders who receive an Extended Determinate Sentence from being automatically released two-thirds of the way into their prison term – they will also need to be assessed by the independent Parole Board, meaning many of them could spend significantly more time in prison.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:
It is not right that people who commit such disgraceful crimes against this country have been able to walk out of prison half-way through their sentence without having to show they are no longer a danger to the public.
This is why we are ensuring that child rapists and terrorists spend longer behind bars, and they know being released early is not an automatic right.
Our tough reforms will better protect victims and the public, while ensuring that serious offenders are properly punished.
These changes are expected to affect up to 500 offenders a year.
The new laws will come into force in the coming months.
The Act will introduce a package of laws that deliver firm but fair sentencing and criminal justice reforms.
Reforms in the Act include:
- Changing the law so that anyone who kills a police or prison officer in the course of their duty faces spending the rest of their life behind bars.
- Banning cautions for criminals convicted of serious offences and, for less serious offences, stopping repeat cautions for anyone who commits the same or similar offence more than once in a two-year period. Serious offenders will instead face being brought before the courts where they could face a prison sentence.
- A new criminal offence of revenge porn has been created, meaning that those who share private, sexual images of someone without consent and with the intent to cause distress will now face up to two years in prison.
- Possession of extreme pornography that shows images depicting rape will also become illegal.
- Increasing the maximum penalty to two years in prison for online trolls who send abusive messages or material.
- Four new criminal offences of juror misconduct are being introduced to ensure fair trials and prevent miscarriages of justice. These are researching details of a case (including online research), sharing details of the research with other jurors, disclosing details of juror deliberation and engaging in other prohibited conduct.
- Making criminals contribute towards the costs of running the courts system by imposing a new fee at the point of conviction.
- A new offence of causing serious injury by driving while disqualified, carrying a maximum penalty of four years in prison, and increasing the maximum prison sentence for causing death by disqualified driving to 10 years.
- The maximum penalty for prisoners who fail to return from a period of temporary release will be increased from six months to two years in prison.
- Creating a new offence of remaining unlawfully at large following a recall from licence. The new offence will punish those who deliberately, and wilfully, seek to avoid serving the rest of their sentence in custody and carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.
- Economic growth will be supported by measures to speed up the Judicial Review process and reduce the number of meritless claims clogging the system.
- Insurance fraud will be tackled by new measures that ban law firms from offering inducements, such as iPads or cash, to potential clients and courts will be required to throw out personal injury cases entirely where the claimant has been found to be fundamentally dishonest, unless doing so would cause substantial injustice.
Notes to editors
- Determinate sentences are prison sentences where the court sets a fixed length for the prison sentence. The offender serves half of the sentence in custody and half of the sentence on licence in the community.
- The changes to the automatic ‘half-way’ release will apply to the following offences:
From the Sexual Offences Act 2003:
- Rape of a child under 13 (and attempts)
- Assault on a child under 13 by penetration (and attempts)
General offences used in terrorism cases
- Attempted murder, soliciting murder, conspiracy to murder, and offence under Part 2 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 committed in relation to murder(where there is a terrorist connection)
Terrorism Act 2000
- Directing a terrorist organisation (s 56)
- Possession of an article for terrorist purposes (s 57)
- Inciting terrorism overseas (s 59)
Anti-terrorism, Crime & Security Act 2001
- Use etc of nuclear weapons (s 47)
- Assisting or inducing weapons-related acts overseas (s 50)
- Use of noxious substance or thing to cause harm or intimidate (s 113)
Terrorism Act 2006
- Preparation of terrorist acts (s 5)
- Making or possession of radioactive device or material (s 9)
- Use of radioactive device or material for terrorist purposes (s 10)
- Terrorist threats relating to radioactive devices (s 11)
Terrorism Act 2000
- Weapons training (s 54)
Terrorism Act 2006
- Training for terrorism (s 6)
Explosive Substances Act 1883
- Causing an explosion likely to endanger life or property (S 2) (where there is a terrorist connection)
- Intent to cause an explosion likely to endanger life or property (S 3) (where there is a terrorist connection)
- Possession of explosives (S 4)(where there is a terrorist connection)
Offences against the Person Act 1861
- Causing bodily injury by gunpowder or other explosive substance (S 28)(where there is a terrorist connection)
- Causing gunpowder or other explosive substance to explode with intent (S 29 (where there is a terrorist connection)
Extended Determinate Sentences (EDS) came into effect on 3 December 2012 and were introduced in the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 as part of a new sentencing regime for dangerous offenders.
EDS are sentences where the offender will receive a custodial term plus a further long extended period of licence set by the court. Offenders receiving this sentence will serve at least two-thirds of the custodial term. Currently, EDS prisoners committing more serious offences must apply to the Parole Board for early release at the two-thirds point, but may serve the whole custodial term in prison. The new provisions mean that this will be the case for all EDS prisoners.
The EDS can be given for any specified sexual or violent offence provided that in the individual case (a) the court thinks the offender presents a risk of causing serious harm through re-offending; and (b) the offence meets the 4 year seriousness threshold or (for adults only) previous offending threshold which were in place for imprisonment for public protection (IPP) sentences. They are available for people convicted of offences listed in Schedule 15 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 — this is a comprehensive list of violent and sexual offences ranging from attempted murder and rape to affray and exposure - there are over 150 offences in Schedule 15.
For further information please call the Ministry of Justice press office on 020 3334 3536. Follow us @MoJpress