HL Deb 01 May 1995 vol 563 cc102-3WA
Lord Windlesham

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will list the changes made in the administration of the mandatory life sentence for murder to conform to judgments of the domestic courts in cases brought by way of judicial review and of the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg, and the dates when new procedures were introduced.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch)

There have been two such judgments, both in the domestic courts.

Following the Divisional Court judgment in March 1987 in the case of Handscomb (which strictly applied only to discretionary life sentence prisoners), it was decided that the views of the trial judge and the Lord Chief Justice about the requirements of retribution and deterrence would be obtained in all life sentence cases as soon as possible after sentence. This was introduced in October 1987. At the same time it was decided that the date of the first formal review of the cases of prisoners serving mandatory life sentences would also be fixed as soon as practicable after conviction.

The House of Lords judgment of 24 June 1993 in Doody and others required the Secretary of State to inform mandatory life sentence prisoners of the recommendations made by the judiciary as to the period necessary to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence, and of the substance of any opinions expressed by the judiciary which are relevant to his decision as to the appropriate minimum period to be served to satisfy those requirements. In addition, the judgment required him to afford to the prisoner the opportunity to submit written representations. Although he is not required to adopt the judicial advice, the Secretary of State must give reasons where he decides to depart from it. New procedures to comply with the judgment were introduced on 4 November 1993 as outlined in my right honourable friend's Written Answer of that day in another place.