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My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield invited members of the Committee to express a view; mind you, we could not stop them doing so. None the less, it was very gracious of him.
I am bound to say that I approach this issue with considerable caution. I myself have always taken the view that sentence was very much a matter for the trial judge. I have always resisted suggestions that the jury should be involved in the sentencing process. In reality, that is what the suggestion by my hon. and learned Friend would amount to.
There is logic in what my hon. and learned Friend says, but I can anticipate quite a lot of other circumstances where the same sort of case arises. Where, for example, there is a racially aggravated assault, is the sentence for that crime to be put to the jury by way of a special verdict? Alternatively, take the point that I adverted to in the intervention, where one is dealing with a homicide case. We all know that there is a range of starting points for the tariff: the starting point is 15 years but it can go to whole life in certain circumstances and it can fall to about 12 years in others. It depends on the balance of the mitigating and aggravating factors, which are specified in the schedule. I would be sorry to see juries being asked to state, by way of special verdict or otherwise, where within the schedule the person convicted of murder stood. Once we go down the road that my hon. and learned Friend outlined, we will get into precisely this sort of world. I am against it, I think.