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Sentencing Regime for 17-year-olds

Volume 685: debated on Tuesday 8 December 2020

I thank my hon. Friend for his correspondence regarding the reforms in the sentencing White Paper. All offenders, including 17-year-olds, who commit the most serious offences and who pose a risk to the public should serve time in custody that reflects the seriousness of their offending. To reduce the gap between the sentencing of older children and younger adults for murder, we plan to replace the blanket starting point of 12 years for murder committed by a child with a sliding scale to reflect age and the severity of the offence.

Young Ellie Gould was brutally murdered in her own home in Calne in my constituency last year. Her assailant, Thomas Griffiths, was given a sentence of 12 and a half years because he was 17. The sentence was further ameliorated by the fact that he did not bring the weapon to the murder scene, but picked up a kitchen knife at the scene. He was 18 when he was convicted and given 12 and a half years. I very much welcome the fact that the Minister is considering this matter. Does she not agree that 12 and a half years for a crime of that sort committed by a boy aged 17 years and eight months is woefully inadequate? He should have got the 15 to 25 years he would have got had he been an adult.

I cannot begin to imagine what Ellie Gould’s parents must have been through. In addition to the point that I made about introducing a sliding scale to reflect age and severity, I want to make it clear that we are considering a particular minimum threshold for those who are 17. My hon. Friend mentioned the knife already being present at the scene of crime, in the home. He will know that the Sentencing Council has produced guidelines for judges on domestic abuse, which outline that the domestic setting of the offending behaviour makes it more serious. As he knows, these are matters that we are looking at in our sentencing White Paper.