Sentencing Murder Cases – New Statutory Aggravating and Mitigating Features

Written 29th February 2024 by Alex Close-Claughton

Today (29th February 2024) changes in the Sentencing Act 2020 come into force.

Regulation 2024 amends paragraph 9 and 10 of Schedule 21 of the Sentencing Act to introduce two new statutory aggravating features and one new mitigating feature to be considered when sentencing murder cases.

Aggravating features in sentencing murders

  • The offender had repeatedly or continuously engaged in behaviour towards the victim that was controlling or coercive and, at the time of the behaviour, the offender and victim were personally connected
  • The offender used sustained and excessive violence towards the victim (sometimes referred to as “overkill”).

Mitigating feature in sentencing murder cases

  • The deceased had repeatedly or continuously engaged in behaviour towards the offender that was controlling or coercive and, at the time of the behaviour, the victim and offender were personally connected within

The changes in the legislation comes after The Serious Crime Act 2015 made Controlling and Coercive behaviour a criminal offence punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

How will the change affect how murder cases are sentenced?

In murder cases the court must always impose a life sentence. However, they must also impose a minimum term. This is the minimum amount of time that the offender must spend in prison before being considered for release by the parole board. The starting point for a murder involving no weapons is a minimum term of 15 years. Its 25 years if the murder involved a knife, and 30 years for murders involving firearms. Once the starting point is reached the judge goes onto consider whether any aggravating or mitigating features apply. Aggravating features are used to make an upwards adjustment in the sentence and mitigating features are used to make a downward adjustment.

Impact of ‘overkill’ or controlling and coercive behaviour on murder sentencing

Prior to these amendments it is likely that judges will have already considered ‘overkill’ or controlling and coercive behaviour of the offender as an aggravating feature of a murder case. The change in the legislation means that they must consider them as aggravating or mitigating features.

So, an offender convicted of murder involving ‘overkill’ or controlling and coercive behaviour can expect a longer sentence than another person convicted on the same facts minus these features. Equally someone convicted of murder who has been a victim of controlling and coercive behaviour can expect a downwards adjustment when compared to a similar case where the victim was not controlling and coercive.

Olliers Solicitors – specialist murder defence lawyers

For more information on sentencing murder cases click here.

Alex Close-Claughton

Alex Close-Claughton

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Manchester

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