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Mandatory life sentences

A mandatory life sentence [link to glossary] must be imposed for an offender found guilty of murder. The judge will set a minimum term an offender must serve before they can be considered for release by the Parole Board. The minimum term for murder is based on the guidance set out in Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (as amended). This schedule sets out examples of the different types of cases and the starting point which would usually be applied, for example, where the murder is committed with a knife or other weapon, the starting point is 25 years (para. 5A).

If released, an offender serving a life sentence will remain on licence for the rest of their life and may be recalled to prison if they are considered to be a risk to the public.

Whole life order

For very serious cases, an offender may be sentenced to a ‘whole life tariff.’

70 prisoners have been issued with whole life orders since the mechanism was first introduced in 1983.