Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Life Should Mean Life

As slogans go, hearing this one being thrown into any debate is my lodestone for singling out the half-wit. It is a perpetual favourite for some of the more hate-obsessed victim’s campaign groups and the first refuge of Daily Mail readers (and writers).

I'd like to unpack this seemingly simple slogan and see if its conceptual legs are capable of carrying any weight.

The Life sentence has never meant, literally, imprisonment for life. Never. And now that life sentences are handed out like confetti, if we made "Life mean life" then we would be imprisoning a very wide spectrum of people indeed.

There are nearly 10,000 people serving indeterminate sentences at present. Less than 3,000 of those are convicted of murder. Should people sentenced for rape, armed robbery, wounding, actual bodily harm (a bloody nose) and the fifty other offences where Life is now the penalty actually spend the rest of their lives in prison?

I suggest that, if this situation is considered by the Life Mean Life brigade, then they will begin to hum and haw and generally retreat from their position.

I think they will retreat to the situation where they are actually only advocating literal Life for those convicted of murder.


  1. The maximum sentence for assault occasioning actual bodily harm is 5 years. You could get life for actual bodily harm while resisting arrest though I suppose.

  2. @ben, don't forget the possibility of indefinite detention on the grounds of public protection.