However, I have a problem with the reasoning behind Lord Falconer's comments. The Sunday Telegraph reports that Lord Falconer said:
"[Lord Phillips] referred to geriatric lifers - well there will be some and I think if you want confidence in the system that's got to be the position."
Asked whom he meant, Lord Falconer replied: "Ian Brady is somebody I would have thought should stay in for the rest of his natural life. Robert Black is another. It is extremely difficult to see circumstances in which Ian Huntley could ever be released. Those are three obvious examples. It is because of dangerousness but it is also because society does require retribution in those sorts of cases and if it doesn't get it people will not be confident of the criminal justice system."
It is this last sentence which gets me. While I quite agree that society requires that these reprehensible men face condign punishment, the line about people losing confidence jars. Because, while Lord Falconer may talk about the likes of Brady, Black, and Huntley, and the fact that they will never be released from prison, it is nonetheless the case that, among murderers, they are in a minority. Most murderers do end up being released from prison, having served sentences which can be as short as ten years. A sentence for manslaughter can be less than five years.
Lord Falconer believes that public confidence in the criminal justice system can be increased by grandstanding over a few particularly odious murderers. But the truth is that public confidence is harmed by the fact that when a killer receives a life sentence that means, in practice, 10 to 15 years. Only when life genuinely means life will public confidence begin to return.
Or we could just bring back hanging.