Killers of police and prison officers to get whole-life sentence

Move essential to ensure officers have full weight of state behind them, says British justice secretary

The hat of murdered Police Constable Sharon Beshenivsky is layed on top of her coffin for her funeral in January, 2006. PC Beshenivksy was killed during an armed robbery in Bradford in November 2005. Photograph: Getty Images

The hat of murdered Police Constable Sharon Beshenivsky is layed on top of her coffin for her funeral in January, 2006. PC Beshenivksy was killed during an armed robbery in Bradford in November 2005. Photograph: Getty Images

Fri, May 9, 2014, 01:00


Criminals who kill police or prison officers in England and Wales when they are on duty face spending the rest of their lives in jail, British justice secretary Chris Grayling has announced.

Judges usually impose 30 years in jail, though Mr Grayling said offering judges powers to impose a full-life sentence is “essential” to ensure that police and prison officers feel “the full weight of the State is behind them”.

Since 2000, 13 police officers have been killed on duty, including a woman PC, Sharon Beshenivsky in Bradford, whose three killers will have to serve 35 years in jail before they can apply for parole.


Current position
Full-life sentences can currently be imposed for those found guilty of killing two or more people where each murder involves premeditation, abduction and sexual or sadistic conduct; a child killing, a terrorist killing, or committed by someone previously convicted of murder.

The Police Federation of England and Wales, which has been in conflict with the Conservatives/Liberal Democrats alliance on a number of issues, welcomed the decision. “We have been calling for this for a long time and are pleased that the government is to make this vital change,” said chairman Steve Williams.

“Every day, police officers put their lives on the line to protect society from criminals and they play a fundamental role in ensuring that people are kept safe. So it is absolutely right that, in return, they are afforded the maximum protection the law allows,” he said.

Crime is moving back up politicians’ agendas as Election 2015 approaches. Illustrating this, the Conservatives are now happy to be in a fight with coalition partners the Liberal Democrats over their plans to automatically jail anyone found with a knife for the second time.

Such a move would turn young people into hardened criminals, Williams said, saying he would not allow the Conservatives to support “headline-grabbing” solutions in the wake of the killing of schoolteacher Anne Maguire in front of her class in Leeds.

Intent on ensuring that the Conservatives cannot portray Labour as “soft on crime” – a not unusual Conservative tactic – Labour leader Ed Miliband said people who carry knives “repeatedly” need to be told by society “that actually it is not acceptable”.