UK: Whole-life Sentence Becomes Mandatory For The Most Horrific Murders

Published: 30 August 2023

Prison Bars HandsThe U.K. Government plans to introduce more strict sentences for killers. (Photo: Pxfuel, License)

By Erika Di Benedetto

The U.K. Government intends to make “whole-life” sentences mandatory for those who commit the most horrific killings, including sexually motivated murders, saying that it was "making sure that life means life."

The goal is to ensure that perpetrators of heinous crimes face a lifetime behind bars with no chance of release.

“I have shared the public’s horror at the cruelty of crimes we have seen recently. People rightly expect that in the most serious cases, there should be a guarantee that life will mean life. They expect honesty in sentencing”, said U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Judges will be legally required to impose whole life orders, with only rare exceptions.

According to the Ministry of Justice, this decision will decrease the chances of overturn to appeal the judge’s orders.

Additionally, for the first time, sexually motivated murders will automatically get a whole life sentence.

This change could have had implications in recent heartbreaking cases, such as those of the lawyers Zara Aleena in 2022 and the primary-school teacher Sabina Nessa in 2021 — one murdered while heading home, the other while reaching her friend — where the perpetrators might have faced lifelong incarceration for their gruesome acts.

The murderer of Aleena, Jordan McSweeney, 30, received a life sentence and must serve a minimum of 38 years in prison.

Similarly, Koci Selamaj, 38, was sentenced to a minimum of 36 years in prison for the murder of Nessa.

“A whole life order will now be the expectation for murderers where the killing involves sexual or sadistic conduct”, stated Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Alex Chalk KC.

According to the new plan, murderers such as McSweeney and Selamaj will fall under the “whole-life” sentence, which differs from the life sentence previously adapted where there is the possibility of parole after the minimum term has been served by the perpetrator.

The government has also approved additional measures, such as terminating automatic early release for terrorists through the Terrorist Offenders Act 2020.

Furthermore, the Counter Terrorism and Sentencing Act 2021 introduced a mandatory minimum jail term of 14 years for the most dangerous terrorist offenders.

In the list of murderers who fall under the “whole-life” sentence there is also the alleged serial killer Lucy Letby, 33, a nurse who was sentenced in August for having murdered seven babies and attempting to murder another six at the Countess of Chester Hospital in Chester, northwest England.