Murderers who kill for sadistic or sexual thrills will die behind bars and violent criminals forced to face their victims in court under measures announced in today’s King’s Speech.
A new sentencing bill would force judges to hand down whole-life orders for the most gruesome killings. Rapists and other sexual offenders would also have to serve their entire sentence behind bars, instead of half on licence.
Other measures include giving police the power to enter a property without a warrant to seize stolen goods, such as phones, when they have reasonable proof that a specific stolen item is inside – such as data from a GPS tracker.
Judges would also be able to force convicted criminals into court for sentencing. A new Criminal Justice Bill would allow the use of ‘reasonable force’ to get them into the dock, with the option of adding two years to their sentence if they refuse.
Yet controversially, criminals handed a sentence of less than 12 months are set to receive a suspended sentence and carry out unpaid community work instead as part of efforts to tackle the prison overcrowding crisis.
This will be expected to cover most of the 37,000 offenders jailed each year for a year or less and include burglars, shoplifters, drug dealers and drink drivers but exclude criminals convicted of any sex, violent or terror offences.
Rishi Sunak – pictured today – has put crime and sentencing at the heart of their legislative programme for 2024
Other measures announced by King Charles giving police the power to enter a property without a warrant to seize stolen goods
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has put crime and sentencing at the heart of their legislative programme for 2024, as he seeks to make law and order a key dividing line with Labour.
The King’s Speech contained a number of measures ‘to keep communities safe from crime, anti-social behaviour, terrorism and illegal migration’.
As part of measures to tackle violence against women and girls, ministers plan to criminalise the sharing of sexual images without consent.
Charles told MPs and peers: ‘A Bill will be brought forward to ensure tougher sentences for the most serious offenders and increase the confidence of victims.
Serial killer neo-natal nurse Lucy Letby refused to attend her own sentencing for murdering babies in the summer
‘My ministers will introduce legislation to empower police forces and the criminal justice system to prevent new or complex crimes, such as digital-enabled crime and child sexual abuse, including grooming.’
The King’s Speech did not mention action to tackle people sleeping on the streets in tents after Home Secretary Suella Braverman provoked outrage by criticising people she said were on the streets as a ‘lifestyle choice’.
Downing Street sources said that Ms Braverman’s proposals were still ‘undergoing scrutiny’. Those in the Home Office pointed towards measures to tackle begging in the Crime and Justice Bill.
The Sentencing Bill will mean a whole life order will be handed down in the worst cases of murder, with judges having discretion to impose a shorter tariff only in exceptional circumstances.
The legislation would also ensure that rapists and serious sexual offenders serve the whole of their sentence behind bars, without being released early on licence.
It would make being in a grooming gang an aggravating feature for sentencing, meaning tougher punishments for ringleaders and members.
A Victims and Prisoners Bill is set to give ministers the power to block parole for the worst offenders and ban them from marrying in prison.
Today the mother and aunt of murdered schoolgirl Olivia Pratt-Korbel welcomed plans to punish anyone who refuses to attend their sentencing hearing in court.
Today the mother and aunt of murdered schoolgirl Olivia Pratt-Korbel welcomed plans to punish anyone who refuses to attend their sentencing hearing in court
Cheryl Korbel, whose nine-year-old daughter was killed in August last year, told Good Morning Britain that the proposals gave the family comfort.
She and Olivia’s aunt have campaigned for the change after Olivia’s killer, Thomas Cashman, refused to attend court for his sentencing.
Ms Korbel told the broadcaster: ‘It is a very important step forward. It will bring a little bit of comfort knowing that no other family will go through what we’ve been through.’
She went on: ‘I really did want to address him – for the pain that he’s put us through, that we’re still going through.
‘And to have the audacity to be there for the whole month and then not to turn up on the day of the sentence. It’s disrespectful to the family and to the judge, not to hear the sentence being passed.’
Under the new Sentencing Bill, judges can decide whether to use reasonable force to bring defendants into court. If they refuse, they could face another two years in prison.
Olivia’s aunt Antonia Elverson questioned whether the penalty is enough.
She said: ‘Twenty-four months sounds a long time. But if you’re looking at a really lengthy sentence, of 25 plus years, two years is neither here nor there. That’s what they’re suggesting, and that’s what they’re going to be putting forward.
‘Obviously, we have no choice but to agree with that at the moment. Whether or not that’s something that we look at campaigning against if it’s not a deterrent, I don’t know.’
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk today said the planned criminal justice reforms, due to be set out in the King’s Speech, were about ‘head as well as heart’.
The King’s Speech did not mention action to tackle people sleeping on the streets in tents. Suella Braverman (seen today, middle) had said rough sleeping was a ‘lifestyle choice’
The Sentencing Bill will mean a whole life order will be handed down in the worst cases of murder. However, most offenders jailed for less than 12 months will get a suspended sentence
He told Times Radio: ‘It’s something that I’ve been talking about for a long time because I’m a barrister by background, I’ve seen this stuff.
‘This is about head as well as it is about heart. This is about ensuring that I don’t want you, I don’t want your family, I don’t want my family, to be victims of crime.
‘So what I want to ensure is that people who are the greatest threat to you and your family are kept out of circulation for longer… but those who are capable of being rehabilitated should be rehabilitated.
‘And that seems to me to be smart.’
The pledges come against a backdrop of soaring prison populations that have forced ministers to ask courts to delay sentencing hearings.
In October the prison population hit a record high for modern times, leaving just over 550 spare places in the system.
Figures showed there were 88,225 inmates behind bars in England and Wales in the middle of the month, up more than 200 in a week.
It beat the previous peak of 88,179 set in late 2011, and is the highest total since modern records began in 1900.
The Government has promised the largest prison building programme in 100 years to create more than 20,000 more places.