The tariff of 20 years passed on Robin Garbutt convicted yesterday of the murder of his wife Diana, raise the questions of what is or what should be the “starting” point for murder.
After the abolition of hanging in 1965, the tariff (that is to say the minimum period in which the offender will serve in prison before being CONSIDERED for release appears to have steadily increased. The increase could well be due to public pressure. Now unable to restore the death penalty even if they wanted – they cannot as the European Union forbids it – successive British Home Secretaries have indicated that they would like to see longer and longer sentences. This to assuage public anger and demands for retributive justice aka vengeance.
This is illustrated by the “Moors Murderess” the late Myra Hindley. Her tariff was set at 30 years. Successive Home Secretaries and judges saw to it that the sentence was actually a whole of life tariff. They wanted Myra Hindley to die in gaol and this is what happened.
The starting tariff for the mandatory life sentence for murder is supposed to be 15 years.
When a judge sets the tariff there are aggravating factors and mitigating factors to take into account. Importantly, a guilty plea is always a mitigating factor. However, lack of a guilty plea should not traditionally be interpreted as an aggravating factor. The degree of deception and the extent to which the murderer went to conceal the evidence of their crime should traditionally not be an aggravating factor per se. The punishment for this is traditionally the absence of the leniency shown for a guilty plea.
The reasons for the murder can be either aggravating factors or mitigating factors. For instance, in the case of a so-called “hit man” who murders a person unknown to him purely for financial gain, the reason is a substantial aggravating factor. An example of a mitigating factor is the so-called “mercy killing” as in the case of the murderess, Frances Inglis.
The British Gazette is firmly of the opinion that government should be open and honest. If it is the case that the politicians feel that the Mandatory Life Sentence for murder should be increased they should do it openly and above board, by increasing the “standard tariff” of 15 years to whatever they think it should be, be that 20, 25, 30 years or more.
This is not to say that when a murderer has served the tariff they are automatically released. It is at that point they are then considered for release. The degree of remorse shown and likelihood of reoffending are then taken into account.