James Watkins

James Watkins

Google Plus News writer

LASPO makes “Two strikes” law for serious sexual and violent offences


3 December 2012

The introduction of knife offences and an automatic life sentence for a second serious sexual assault are among changes to criminal law that come into force today.

The changes come courtesy of the Legal Aid, Sentencing, and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, known as LASPO for short. The act makes a number of significant criminal law changes, which are being rolled out in stages.

The act takes a firm stance against sexual and violent assault, with those who commit their second offence of this kind being given an automatic life sentence in prison. Previously, murder was the only crime which demanded a mandatory life sentence upon conviction.

Justice secretary Chris Grayling said when describing the two strikes rule that “everyone deserves a second chance. If they don't use that second chance they go to prison for life.”

 The act also introduces the Extended Determinate Sentence, which prevents those convicted of serious violent and sexual crimes from being released halfway through their sentence. Crimes under this umbrella include rape, armed robbery, and deliberately causing grievous bodily harm.

LASPO also introduces new measures to combat knife crime, including the criminalisation of “aggravated possession of a knife”, which will see anyone who carries a knife with the intention to threaten or harm facing an automatic custodial sentence. However, campaigners have questioned whether the new measure will help to stamp out knife crime.

Kate Whaley, from Mothers Against Murder and Aggression, said: “It's always going to be the case that if you use a knife, you're probably going to end up in jail. What we need to do is find ways to stop young people from carrying knives in the first instance.”

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan added that the new rules on knife crime didn’t go far enough, accusing the government of breaking an election promise to criminalise anyone who carries a knife in public.

There are several other changes made under the act, including the addition of a offence for causing injury by dangerous driving, and the introduction of a minimum of 30 years in prison for the murder of an individual due to their transgender or disabled status.

The effects of LASPO have already been felt, with the first change under the act being introduced at the beginning of September. This change saw the criminalisation of squatting in a private building, under which a squatter was jailed soon after.

The remaining changes under LASPO, including changes to the rehabilitation of offenders, will be introduced in April 2013.

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