The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 is one of those wide-raging criminal justice acts which create numerous new offences, make substantial changes to sentencing and try to address lots of minor anomalies in a way that has become increasingly popular in the last two decades.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling chose to emphasise how tough the Act is in the MoJ’s official press release:
“Crime has fallen, serious offenders are going to prison for longer and now we have changed the law to deliver tougher and swifter justice for victims and the public.”
“As well as bringing in a range of vital new offences and other important legal changes our reforms are strengthening sentencing powers to provide better protection for our communities.”
The Act creates at least eight new offences, increases the penalties for a number of crimes and levies new charges on anyone convicted of a criminal offence.
The Act received Royal Assent on 12 February and comes into force on 13 April 2015 and I thought it might be interesting to look at some of its main provisions. Here are 12 things that you may not know about the Act; in addition to being more punitive, you will see that several apply to new offences committed online.
- All child rapists and terrorists serving custodial sentences will only be released before the end of their prison term if the independent Parole Board decides they no longer represent a risk to the public
- A new criminal offence of revenge porn has been created, meaning that those who share private, sexual images of someone without consent and with the intent to cause distress will now face up to 2 years in prison
- Banning cautions for criminals convicted of serious offences and, for less serious offences, stopping repeat cautions for anyone who commits the same or similar offence more than once in a 2-year period. Offenders will be prosecuted instead.
- Making possession of extreme pornography that shows images depicting rape illegal.
- Increasing the maximum penalty to 2 years in prison for online trolls who send abusive messages or material.
- Four new criminal offences of juror misconduct. These are researching details of a case (including online research), sharing details of the research with other jurors, disclosing details of juror deliberation and engaging in other prohibited conduct
- Imposing a new fee at the point of conviction to make criminals contribute towards the costs of running the courts system
- Creating a new offence of causing serious injury by driving while disqualified, carrying a maximum penalty of 4 years in prison, and increasing the maximum prison sentence for causing death by disqualified driving to 10 years.
- Increasing the maximum penalty for prisoners who fail to return from a period of temporary release from 6 months to 2 years in prison
- Creating a new offence of remaining unlawfully at large following a recall from licence with a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison
- Speeding up the Judicial Review process and reducing the “number of meritless claims clogging the system”.
- Tackling insurance fraud by new measures that ban law firms from offering inducements, such as iPads or cash, to potential clients and courts will be required to dismiss personal injury cases entirely where the claimant has been found to be fundamentally dishonest.