LETTER:The right sentence for violence

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Sir: 1996 marks the 21st anniversary of the report of the Committee on Mentally Abnormal Offenders, chaired by the late Lord Butler, and I feel that both the Lord Chief Justice and the Home Secretary might well be advised to take down their copies, give them a dusting, and turn to the recommendation for a reviewable sentence.

This suggested that in cases where there was a substantial risk of committing a further violent offence the Crown Court could impose a sentence which would be subject to review at regular intervals, possibly every two years, with reports estimating the possible dangers to the public, and on release the defendant being subject to supervision in much the same way as applies to those released from life imprisonment.

Such a sentence would meet the reservations of the Lord Chief Justice in that there would be less likelihood of murder to cover up an offence. It would also meet the concern of the Home Secretary for better protection for the public. Whilst the recommendationwas in respect of mentally disordered offenders, it would seem equally appropriate in any case of a violent dangerous offence.

Dr D I Acres

Benfleet, Essex

The writer was a member of the Butler Committee, 1972-75