HL Deb 10 January 2000 vol 608 cc82-3WA
Lord Dholakia

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What criteria are used in deciding whether a young prisoner detained during Her Majesty's pleasure has shown a significant alteration in maturity, which would justify a lower tariff than originally set. [HL427]

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary made a statement on 10 November 1997 about the House of Lords judgement inV and T, which set out the approach to be taken to the review of the tariffs of those sentenced to be detained during Her Majesty's pleasure.

The statement made clear that public confidence in the sentence would not be maintained if initial tariffs were to be curtailed without very good reason or as a matter of course. A tariff should be reduced only where the balance between the public interest in punishment and the public interest in the offender's welfare has clearly shifted so as to justify a reduction. The standard required to achieve a reduction in tariff in such cases is, therefore, very high. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary will, in particular, look for: evidence of a significant alteration in the maturity and outlook of a detainee over and above that which can be expected in the normal course of development in the detainee between the date of the offence and that of the review; risks to the offender's continued development that cannot be sufficiently mitigated or removed in the custodial setting; and any matter that calls into question the basis of the original decision to set tariff at a particular level.

Among the factors that might be relevant in determining whether the high threshold required to achieve a reduction in tariff has been met in a particular case are: evidence of genuine remorse; full acceptance of responsibility for the murder; a very good work and disciplinary record in custody; and a very good performance in relation to offence-related courses. Other factors in an individual case which are not readily susceptible to definition may also be relevant. For this reason, each case must be carefully considered on its merits.