Convicted child killers will spend the rest of their lives in prison, under new reforms announced by the government today.
Whole Life Orders (WLOs), which are only given for the most serious cases of murder, will be imposed on all individuals found guilty of killing a child.
Judges will be able to impose WLOs on 18-20 year olds in exceptional cases involving mass loss of life.
Cases which may fall under this exception could include terror attacks, like the Manchester Arena bombing, which claimed the lives of 22 people, many of them children. The bomber’s brother, who helped plan the attack, was under the age of 21 at the time.
A controversial proposal to prevent adults who committed murder as a child to have their minimum term reviewed is likely to raise concerns among child welfare activists who argue that children cannot be held fully responsible for crimes until they reach adulthood.
The claim is based on scientific research which suggests that a person’s ability to make decisions does not mature fully until they reach 16.
In addition, the changes will see an increase in the starting point for determining sentences for 15-17 year olds who commit murder from a minimum of 12 years to two thirds of the equivalent starting point for an adult.
The Ministry of Justice went on to announce a nationwide call for evidence in its press release, to understand better how the justice system supports offenders with neurological conditions such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia.
The raft of reforms also includes a new sentencing process for sexual and violent offenders who will now have to serve at least two thirds of their prison sentences under the changes.
Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland QC said, “This White Paper is the first step in a fundamental shift in our approach to sentencing, towards one that is fairer, smarter and ultimately better protects the public.”