Public Opinion and the Penalty for Murder

By: Homicide Review Advisory Group

Catalogue Number: AA9-M2XM

Public Opinion and the Penalty for Murder

  • Format: Pamphlet
  • Publisher: Waterside Press
  • ISBN: 9781904380849
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The Homicide Review Advisory Group (HomRAG) was set up in 2004 to run alongside the work of the Law Commission which was reviewing aspects of the law on murder. This multidisciplinary group was convened on the initiative of Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC and Professor Terence Morris; and was initially chaired by the late Very Reverend Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark and now by Sir Louis. In essence, the group is concerned with promoting a just law of murder. As part of this aim and in view of developments in Parliament in late-2011 and continuing into 2012 concerning sentencing and the use of mandatory sentences in particular, HomRAG has published its first report for consideration by law-makers and other interested parties. Harking back to the abolition of capital punishment, the group argue that the mandatory life sentence for murder is both unjust and outdated; a compromise arrived at in the 1960s in order to ensure that abolition of the death penalty made its way through both Houses of Parliament. Neither it nor the present system of tariff-setting allow for sentences which match the seriousness of individual crimes, so that, e.g. a single 'mercy killing' attracts the same penalty as that for a murder which is part of a course of serial killings. Further, the indefinite and misleading nature of the life sentence - which may or may not involve a life spent in prison - is both unjust and incomprehensible to even better-informed lay people. Building on modern research which shows that the public and public opinion are nowadays by no means averse to such a change, the report urges that the time has come for a move to fixed sentences for murder as with any other individual crime so that the exact circumstances of offences can be properly reflected by the courts.

Author's Biography

Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC was called to the Bar by Middle Temple in July 1952 and practised until 2004. He took silk in 1970. Throughout his career he engaged in the campaign for the abolition of capital punishment and in the abolition of the mandatory life sentence for murder. From 1966-1978 he was a member of the Home Secretary's Advisory Council on the Penal System, and chaired the Council's Report in June 1978 on Sentences of Imprisonment. Beatrix Campbell OBE Beatrix Campbell OBE is an award-winning journalist, author, broadcaster, campaigner and playwright. She is the author of Wigan Pier Revisited, which won 1984's Cheltenham Festival Literary Prize, and The Iron Ladies (1987), which won the Fawcett Society Prize. She regularly writes for the Guardian, and has received several awards for her journalism, including the 300 Group's Campaigning Journalist of the Year Award. She has also served on the National Women's Advisory Committee. His Honour Colin Colston QC Colin Colston was called to the Bar in 1962 and practised on the Midland Circuit for the next 21 years. He was regularly involved in both the prosecution and defence in serious criminal cases. He was appointed a Circuit Judge in 1983 and was Resident Judge at St Albans from 1998-2000. Following his retirement he continued to sit part-time as a Deputy Circuit Judge until 2010. He was a member of the Parole Board from 2004 - 2007. He has been a member of HomRAG from the outset. Since 1992 he has been a lay judge of the Court of Arches. He is Canon Emeritus of St Albans Cathedral. Bryan Gibson Bryan Gibson is a barrister and founding director of legal publishers Waterside Press. He is also the founder of the Garrow Society. His former roles include being adviser to the Magistrates' Association Sentencing of Offenders Committee, chair of the Criminal Law Committee of the Justices' Clerks' Society and co-editor of Justice of the Peace. The author of various works on criminal justice, he has been associated with a number of criminal justice campaigns, notably in relation to sentencing, procedure, human rights and the workings of the courts. Dr Adrian Grounds Adrian Grounds was University Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychiatry at the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge and a consultant forensic psychiatrist in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust. Since retiring in 2010 he has been an Honorary Research Fellow at the Institute of Criminology. He is one of the Parole Commissioners in Northern Ireland. John Harding CBE John Harding CBE was the former Chief Probation Officer for Inner London, from 1993 to 2001. Before that appointment, he was the Chief Probation Officer for Hampshire. He was a member of the Parole Board from 2000-2006. He was appointed Visiting Professor of Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Hertfordshire from 2001-2008. Latterly, he has worked as a part time EU adviser on the development of alternative sanctions in Russia (2007-2009), Turkey (2010) and Serbia (2011). Dr Barrie Irving Barrie Irving is a Senior Research Fellow at RAND Europe in Cambridge and an Honorary Research Fellow at Cardiff University's Police Science Institute. He is currently working on a number of EU assignments including a performance review of Europol and a corruption prevention study for the European Border Agency, Frontex. His early training at master's degree level at UC Berkeley was focused on public attitude research and the psychology of face-to-face interactions. He continued to specialise in these subjects at the Tavistock Institute in London where he started a psycho-legal studies group bringing social science to bear on criminal justice issues notably on the reliability of eye-witness testimony and false confessions. He carried out the independent research on custodial interrogation for the Royal Commission on Criminal procedure that led to the safeguards for interrogees under the Police and Criminal Evi

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