Theresa May declares war on police killers
British home secretary, Theresa May, has announced that those convicted of killing a police officer are to face compulsory whole-life sentences.
Speaking at the Police Federation conference in Bournemouth, Mrs May called the murder of a police officer “a particularly appalling crime” and said “to attack and kill a police officer is to attack the fundamental basis of our society”.
Currently the minimum sentence for anyone convicted of murdering a police officer is 30 years. The government, however, is proposing new legislation to increase the minimum term to life in prison without parole.
“We are clear – life should mean life for anyone convicted of killing a police officer,” the home secretary told the conference.
Twelve police officers have been killed while on duty since 2000. The most recent are Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone who died in a gun and grenade attack last September while responding to a routine burglary call in Manchester.
The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, is permitted under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to make an order to change the starting points for sentences, following consultation with the Sentencing Council.
Changing the starting point from 30 years to a life sentence for such convictions would mean offenders could only be released from prison at the discretion of the secretary of state on compassionate grounds.
Guidelines issued by the Criminal Prosecution Service currently reserve whole-life sentences for serial killers, child murderers and those who kill in the name of religion, politics or an ideological cause.
47 prisoners have been given such sentences in England and Wales. These include Rosemary West and the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe.
These tariff increases, which should come into effect within months, will be broadly welcomed by police officers and also by many Conservative backbenchers who will see them as confirming May’s position as a hard-line Conservative home secretary.
During her speech to the Conference, the Home Secretary also called for an end to “frivolous” claims by police officers who have accidents while on duty and emphasised the importance of raising public trust in the police, saying there should be “zero tolerance” of malpractice.
Earlier in the day, Federation Chairman Steve Williams had described how officers felt “totally dejected” by recent government cuts and reforms and urged the home secretary not to “hang your reforms on the reprehensible behaviour of a handful of officers”.