Mandatory life sentences

The following Corporate Crime practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Mandatory life sentences
  • Mandatory life sentences
  • Fixing the tariff for mandatory life sentences
  • The minimum term for mandatory life sentences
  • The basic starting points
  • Standard of proof
  • Compatibility with ECHR
  • Judicial discretion
  • A whole life order
  • Reducing the tariff for exceptional and unforeseeable progress

Mandatory life sentences

This Practice Note reflects the procedural code for sentencing offenders in England and Wales (Sentencing Code) that applies from 1 December 2020, as set out in Parts 2–13 of the Sentencing Act 2020 (SA 2020). For those considering whether the Sentencing Code applies to their case, see Practice Note: Sentencing Code.

Mandatory life sentences

A court must impose a sentence for life (life sentence) in respect of an offender who is aged 21 or over and who is convicted of murder (but not related offences such as attempted murder or conspiracy to murder). This is because the sentence is ‘fixed by law’. The same is true of any other offence the sentence for which the sentence fixed by law is life imprisonment.

Where an offender is aged over 18 on the date of the offence but under 21 on the date of conviction, the equivalent sentence is custody for life.

The applicable sentence for a person convicted of murder who was under 18 at the time of the offence is detention at Her Majesty's pleasure.

For guidance on imposing life sentences, see the Criminal Practice Directions, at CPD VII Sentencing M: Mandatory Life Sentences.

Fixing the tariff for mandatory life sentences

When passing a life sentence, the court must make a whole life order or otherwise fix a minimum term that the offender must serve in custody before the

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