Justice acts on juvenile sentencing

CAMPAIGNING law reform group Justice, which has won an important battle in its fight for juvenile justice, is considering taking new legal steps to keep politics out of the courts.

The Home Secretary's intervention in fixing mandatory life terms could be the next target of Justice following its recent first-round victory in Europe.

The European Commission has ruled unanimously that juveniles serving life sentences should be treated the same as many other discretionary lifers, for whom time served is fixed by a “court-like body”.

If the decision is upheld by the European Court of Human Rights next summer, decisions on the release of juvenile murderers will be taken out of the hands of the Home Secretary.

Anne Owers, director of Justice, says the decision is an important step in ensuring that children convicted of murder have their sentences fixed by “a fair and open judicial process without political intervention”.

Legal officer Madeleine Colvin says that Justice is now considering whether further challenges can be brought.

The group believes all sentencing decisions should be taken by the judiciary rather than ministers.

But Sir Ivan Lawrence QC, chair of the Home Affairs select committee, has hit out at the way British justice can be dictated by Europe.