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Child killers should die in prison, say 55 percent of the public in response to sentencing survey


MORE than half of the public want to see all child killers given full life terms, according to the results of a new survey. Fifty five per cent of respondents said anyone convicted of murdering a child should die in prison, while 13 per cent said a 35-year term was enough. Murdering an adult should also lead to a full-life tariff, according to 42 per cent of people who responded, while 12 per cent said they should get 35 years. The newly-published survey was commissioned by the House of Commons Justice Committee for an ongoing inquiry it is carrying out into the public's opinion and understanding of sentencing.

Stephen Boden and Shannon Marsden, whose baby Finley Boden (all above) endured 130 injuries including 57 fractures and burns, were both found guilty of his murder by a jury at Derby Crown Court last month.

The cannabis addicted pair will be sentenced on May 26, but are unlikely to face full life terms.

Thomas Cashman was found guilty of the murder of Olivia Pratt-Korbel, 9, who was shot dead and her mother injured when he fired into their home after his target convicted drug dealer Joseph Nee fled inside last August. The 34-year-old was sentenced to life with a minimum 42 years, meaning he could be released aged 76. Cashman also refused to attend for his sentence prompting fresh calls for a change in the law to compel offenders to turn up. Other results from the survey were that Nearly a fifth of more than 2,000 respondents said the most severe rape convictions should lead to offenders dying in jail and 70 per cent of people believed that UK sentences are generally are too lenient. Tory MP Kieran Mullan, who sits on the Justice Committee, agreed to discuss the results in a personal capacity. He was a leading campaigner for Harper’s Law which brought in mandatory life sentences for killers of emergency service workers. He said: "This government has taken some huge steps forward on sentencing, including changing Labour’s half way release to two thirds for the most serious offenders. The whole life tariff for premeditated child murder another one. However, this survey shows that there remains a yawning gap between what the public want and what the justice system delivers." Alan Collins, partner in the abuse team at Hugh James Solicitors, said: "It is probably a truism that mainstream public opinion is out of step with those who oversee the criminal justice system, that is the government, and this has been the case for a very long time. "Whatever one’s opinion is on capital punishment, opinion polls have consistently shown for many years if there was a poll the general public would favour its re-introduction and certainly for the most serious of crimes. "Having said all that, if one probes behind the headlines then the general publics’ attitude towards sentencing is far more sophisticated. It is not simply 'send them to prison and throw away the key'. "Politicians of all hues need to reflect, and think carefully about what the public are saying, especially so when the police service is under the spotlight and being subjected to such serious criticism for its various failings." Some called for caution in allowing the public to sway sentencing. Rubin Italia, Solicitor at Stokoe Partnership, said: "The survey shows a significant level of public engagement with the criminal justice system, however allowing public opinion to influence sentencing will erode the independence of the judiciary." "In cases which attract significant media attention, such as the Wayne Couzens and David Fuller cases, it is inevitable that public opinion may be reflected in sentencing." "Extremely serious offences such as murder understandably provoke an emotive response, however the court system should remain largely independent of public opinion, to ensure defendants receive a fair trial." Dr Nicola Coleman, Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Hertfordshire, said the call for full life terms for child killers was “reflective of opinions often posted on social media in response to serious crimes and the high-profile attention that news outlets pay them." She said: “Slightly less than one third (30 per cent) of respondents said they get their information on sentencing decisions from social media which is worrying - it’s not a reliable source, and largely opinion-based. A Sentencing Council spokeswoman said: “We are aware of this survey, which covers similar areas to our own research published by the Council in 2022. The Council has contributed to the Justice Committee inquiry into Public opinion and understanding of sentencing, and we await their final report with interest.” A Ministry of Justice spokesman added: “This Government is committed to locking the most dangerous criminals away for longer, to protect the public and deliver the justice that the public expects. “Since 2010 average sentence lengths have risen by 58 per cent and we have introduced tougher punishments for the worst offenders - including extending whole-life orders to child murderers, increasing the maximum sentence for dangerous drivers who kill to life and ending the automatic halfway release for serious crimes.”

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