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Sentencing murder : Boyle v HM Advocate SLT 29

Mcdiarmid, Claire (2010) Sentencing murder : Boyle v HM Advocate SLT 29. Edinburgh Law Review, 14 (3). pp. 473-477. ISSN 1364-9809

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It is common knowledge that the sentence for murder is life.1 But while the symbolism – of a life confined for a life destroyed – is strong, convicted murderers do not necessarily remain in prison for the whole of their natural lives.2 The advent of the “punishment part” or (in England) “tariff”, constituting the minimum period of detention necessary to represent retribution and deterrence, while intended to express punitive principles, also affirms that release prior to death is always considered, even if the period actually spent in prison appears to be increasing.3 The punitive nature of the punishment part is particularly well illustrated by the tariff’s history in England and Wales.4 The power to set the tariff initially constituted an encroachment on the judicial function by the Home Secretary,5 raising justified fears that tariffs were being set for political purposes.6 Tariffs have not become any less punitive but they must now be determined by the judiciary.7