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Prosecutor backs murder law change


Keir Starmer has backed a change in murder charges

Keir Starmer has backed a change in murder charges

Keir Starmer has backed a change in murder charges

Calls for US-style murder charges to be introduced in England and Wales have won support from the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Keir Starmer QC backed recommendations made by the Law Commission for a three-tier system for homicide cases, depending on their seriousness, a Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said.

These were first-degree murder, carrying a mandatory life sentence; second-degree murder, with a life term at the discretion of the judge plus sentence guidelines; and manslaughter, also with a maximum penalty of life.

The Law Commission, which reviews and recommends reform to the law, made wide-ranging recommendations for changes to the legislation six years ago.

A year later, it said the homicide law was a "rickety structure set upon shaky foundations", with some of the rules being in place since the 17th century.

The law could not be stated with "clarity or certainty", it said.

In a further review, published in 2006, the commission suggested the three-tier system which has now been backed by Mr Starmer.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said on Wednesday: "The Government is aware of the recommendations put forward in the Law Commission's report on murder, which we will consider."

In July, it emerged that Lord Chancellor Kenneth Clarke was "sympathetic" to a reform of the law of murder.

In addition, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Blair has now hinted he backs reform being considered, saying: "I think the Americans have a very sensible idea that there are degrees of murder. I do think we just need to look at it. The Law Commission spent a long time looking at it and it's unfortunate their views have not been followed up so far."

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