Three in four Britons support keeping police killers behind bars until death – and a majority say politicians should set minimum sentences, not judges
The Home Secretary Theresa May announced on Wednesday that murderers of police officers are to be given whole-life sentences, arguing that because police officers form the “fundamental basis of society” it is time for “life to mean life”. The announcement pleased some, but angered those who believe sentencing should be down to judges and not politicians.
New YouGov research reveals that the vast majority of the public back Mrs May’s decision: three quarters say the murderer of a policeman “should receive a life sentence and remain in prison for the whole of their life”, while just 19% support the current policy, that police killers “should receive a life sentence but be considered for parole after a minimum sentence”.
Prior to 2003 politicians were kept at arm’s length from sentencing; however David Blunkett’s Criminal Justice Act gave Parliament the right to set minimum terms for murder.
The public do not regret the move: a majority (59%) say “Parliament should set down minimum sentences which judges should have to follow” and under a third (28%) believe it should be left up to “judges to decide the most appropriate sentences”.
In addition to wanting police killers to die in prison, 41% of the public want them to die by corporal punishment; that is compared to significant support for the death penalty for other kinds of offences and a majority of 56% who believe the penalty should be administered for murderers of children with a sexual motive.
Mrs May made the announcement at the Police Federation Conference in Bournemouth, and the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is expected to appeal to the Criminal Justice Act to make the changes in sentencing.