Throughout the course of my career, I have seen the justice system from many angles – as prosecution and defence counsel, as a part-time Crown Court judge, as a Member of Parliament serving on the Justice Select Committee, as a Law Officer of the Crown, and as Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor.
Indeed, in my Maiden Speech to Parliament back in 2010, I set out my belief in what I called a smarter sentencing system.
When I first started practising as a criminal barrister over thirty years ago, it was clear that there were problems with sentencing. In the time that has elapsed, governments of all complexions have come and gone, and by the time I became Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor in 2019, there had been seventeen major pieces of sentencing legislation. However, despite all this energetic law-making, few big or meaningful strides had frankly been made in sentencing, which is why as Justice Secretary, I worked hard to introduce a whole new smarter approach to sentencing.
As part of this smarter approach to sentencing my priorities as Justice Secretary included keeping dangerous offenders off the streets for longer to protect the public, ensuring that punishment is appropriate for the crime committed, working to tackle the many complex causes of offending, and providing the opportunity and support to reform for those who truly want to turn their backs on crime.
The Smarter Approach to Sentencing I helped to introduce set out plans to achieve this through a combination of clear proposals for legislation, which included introducing mandatory whole life orders for offenders convicted of the most awful murders, ensuring that those criminals are brought to justice for their crimes.
I am glad that as part of my work to introduce a whole new approach to sentencing, the Conservative Government has now announced that they are introducing legislation so that judges must give offenders convicted of the most awful murders, including sexual or sadistic conduct, a whole life order unless truly exceptional circumstances apply.
Making these new rules apply to every criminal sentenced after commencement of this law, will help to ensure that criminals who are yet to be sentenced will feel the full force of the law. These changes which I set about introducing as Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, will ensure that offenders sentenced for a range of the most heinous crimes including murder, rape, and child cruelty are brought to justice and will spend even longer behind bars.