HC Deb 18 February 1982 vol 18 cc396-7
15. Mr. Edward Lyons

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to enable judges to use their discretion to impose the sentence which seems appropriate to them on a conviction of murder.

Mr. Whitelaw

I have no plans to alter the present law.

Mr. Lyons

Is the Home Secretary aware that many trials in murder cases, especially in relation to domestic killings, take place in such a way as to achieve a manslaughter verdict, to give the judge the opportunity to pass an appropriate sentence instead of the automatic life sentence? Will he institute an inquiry to consider the advantages of giving judges the opportunity to pass an appropriate and often lesser sentence rather than the automatic life sentence?

Mr. Whitelaw

Given the current feeling about violent crime, any removal of the mandatory sentence for murder would be regarded as a serious matter.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Will the right hon. Gentleman remind the House that the Butler Committee, the Advisory Council on the Penal System and half of the Criminal Law Revision Committee recommended that the life sentence should be a maximum rather than a mandatory sentence for murder? Does he recognise that the degree of wickedness and culpability in murders differs quite substantially and that the courts should be able to reflect that by passing an appropriate sentence, which would be determinate rather than a mandatory life sentence?

Mr. Whitelaw

I do not wish to add to or subtract from anything that I said in my previous answer.