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More lenient sentencing is a myth says senior judge

(Posted on 11/12/20)

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More lenient sentencing is a myth says senior judge

On Wednesday 9 December Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett gave the annual University College London Judicial Institute Lecture, where he argued the debate over sentencing should be based on “fact not misconception”.

In his speech, the Lord Chief Justice said that if “the mythical alien” were to arrive on earth and take an interest in sentencing in England and Wales, it would “soon gain the impression that sentencing had got softer in recent years” and may “wonder why criminals convicted of serious offences were getting more lenient sentences than they used to”.

But there is a “difficulty with this narrative”, Lord Burnett says, adding “it is a myth”.

Setting out a series of facts, the judge said in 1993 the prison population was just over 44,000 and it is now just under 80,000.

In December 2009, the average length of all custodial sentences was 13.7 months, he says, and in December last year it was 18.9 months.

And the average length of the minimum term a person convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment must serve before they can be considered for release on licence has gone from 12.5 years in 2003 to 21.3 years in 2016.

“There are many reasons for these increases but there is no doubt that in recent decades sentencing levels have increased, not reduced,” Lord Burnett says.

You can watch Lord Burnett's UCL Judicial Institute speech on YouTube below. 

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