Thursday, 4 November 2010

When life means life and why protest?

The article in the news that took my attention concerned the conviction of the woman who was jailed for life for trying to murder Labour MP Stephen Timms. She is not mentally ill but did make a list of all MPs who had voted for the war in Iraq and she is certainly a danger to all of these MPs.

There were two things that really struck me. Firstly the meaning of the words life sentence. How can it be that a life sentence actually means a minimum of 15 years? This just doesn't make sense. I can't think of any way that the words life and minimum of 15 years are compatible. I am sure that lawyers may give their explanation as to how they can distort the English language to mean what they want it to mean but in the words of "Just a Minute", it is deviation from the English language as I know it.

The second thing that struck me was the report that there were protests at the conviction. My great concern is that this woman may not be suitable for rehabilitation. Will any of these MPs be safe if she ever comes out of prison? What is the essence of the protest? If the protesters really want her release, are they asking for the death of our MPs? Have the protesters committed a crime?

I watched the BBC news and only three people were seen protesting but this was enough to be part of the report. I have glanced through news items on the internet and I have not found any great detail as to their logic, but my questions need to be asked and I hope the answers are easily found.

Change the world


  1. As I undestand it...
    All life sentences are for life. The time spent in prison in the first instance (called the tariff) is followed by an opportunity to be outside prison on license. That license can be withdrawn at any time and the convicted person returned to prison.

    So in this case after 15 years if the tariff is served in full, this person could be released on license, but might not be (or could be re-incarcerated) if judged a threat.

    But I am not a lawyer so do get more detailed advice.

  2. AsI understand it...

    A life sentence is never 'discharged'. The person convicted is under sentence for life.

    The first part of the sentence (Called the tariff) is spent in prison. After fulfilling the tariff the convicted person may be able to live outside prison but is still under sentence. The convicted person can be recalled to prison at any time if judged a threat.

    A very small minority of convicted murderers get a life tariff attached to their life sentences giving them life imprisonment.

    A lawyer could say more in detail I am sure.

  3. Thanks for the comment Edis. I am not a lawyer either, but as you can tell in my original blog, I prefer simple explanations rather than legal ones. What is simple for me is that any prisoner should have their sentence decreased for good behaviour. I look upon rehabilitation as the primary reason behind our prisons but it may be that this particular prisoner will have to serve a life sentence.