Fraud and murder
New corporate offences and longer prison sentences? We wait to see
A new offence of failure to prevent economic crime is to be rushed through parliament in the coming weeks. Is this going to deter commercial fraud and similar offences? Or will it put unnecessary burdens on business? Those are the issues I discuss in my column for today’s Law Society Gazette.
You’ll find I don’t come down on one side or the other. That’s because we have not yet seen the proposals that the government has promised. At least, I don’t think we have: Lord Garnier KC, the former Conservative law officer who has been supporting reform for many years, tabled a number of amendments to the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill yesterday that look to me as if they were drafted with government assistance. We wait to see whether these will attract ministerial support.
Killers to face longer prison sentences?
I have not written in detail about today’s announcement from the Ministry of Justice, covered by the BBC in a report that begins like this:
Murderers with a history of coercive behaviour towards their victims or who use excessive violence could face tougher sentences under new proposals.
But take care when you see the word “could” in a news story: there is often a lot riding on it.
My readers will know that the sentence for murder is fixed by law. They should take a look at today’s Ministry of Justice announcement and note that the justice secretary’s sentencing powers are rightly limited to asking the Sentencing Council to “consider” ministerial proposals.
Ministers no longer decide how long a murderer should serve before being considered for release on licence and that is not going to change. Parliament can amend the starting point and add new aggravating factors to those considered by the courts when setting a minimum term. But that will depend on the Ministry of Justice being granted a slot in the parliamentary timetable.
And all this is quite apart from the question of whether a longer minimum term has any deterrent effect on a domestic murderer.
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Daughter Naomi Fowler, the voice of the TAX JUSTICE NETWORK, has with her colleagues been beavering away at the mischiefs Joshua identifies for YEARS and the proposed “failure to prevent “ legislation is in part down to TJN’s attritional efforts- which are about to cease no time soon if ever.
This government is- characteristically- going about it in a madcap and non consultative manner but then I am cheered to learn that Lord Garnier,KC, is on to this. Also I in no way doubt the bona fides of Tom Tugenhadt.
I got to know the warm and approachable Edward Garnier -then QC, of course- when I found in him an ally in opposing then New Labour’s determined though unsuccessful efforts to remove jury trial for “either way” allegations and I later persuaded him to participate in an international panel I chaired for the Law Society at its Disneyworld Festival to discuss Public Defender Services. Thereby hangs another tale.
As to YET longer prison sentences for a category of aggravated murder, I am moved to ask YET AGAIN WHY? To what purpose, as Joshua mentions especially in respect of those offences with a domestic element?
Surely NO ONE any longer SERIOUSLY contends that the move to ever longer stretches DETERS? Or, with such hefty chunks of any life’s ration of liberty forfeit, rehabilitates? The prospect of efficient, timely and as far as possible water tight arrest and conviction - I have long maintained- is the sole, true deterrent.