The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) finally became law on 1 May.
Part 3 of the Act creates four new criminal offences:
- Threatening another person with an offensive weapon / bladed article in public thereby creating immediate risk of physical harm
- Causing serious injury by dangerous driving
- Buying scrap metal for cash
- Squatting in a residential building
The Act has its fair share of populist measures, most notably the introduction of “two strikes and you’re out” mandatory life sentences for those convicted for a second time of certain serious offences. Another crowd-pleaser is the provision for prisoners to make payments to support victims of crime. For the first time, Prosecutors will be able to appeal against Crown Court bail decision.
The Act also seeks to clarify the law on self–defence for householders protecting their own property - although some will query whether it does in fact clarify or simply add a further layer of obfuscation.
What is interesting, although much less prominent in MoJ press releases, is the range of measures designed to reduce the prison population: IPPs (indeterminate sentences of imprisonment for public protection) are being abolished, while community orders and suspended sentences are being strengthened to encourage non-custodial disposals. Those awaiting trial will now be granted bail where there is “no real prospect” of their receiving a custodial sentence upon conviction.
Whether this is indicative of an enlightened approach to penal policy or a need to reduce the crippling costs of maintaining the current prison estate is a matter of debate.