The sentence for criminals who kill a police officer should be increased to the toughest “life means life” tariff, the Home Secretary will announce.
Theresa May said the existing starting point of 30 years should be raised to the “whole life” category which is currently reserved for the very worst types of murderer.
The announcement, to be made during Mrs May’s speech at the Police Federation annual conference in Bournemouth, will be seen as a move to appease front line police officers who are unhappy over changes to pay and conditions.
At the same conference last year the police jeered the Home Secretary and urged her to resign.
In a speech Mrs May is expected to say: “To attack and kill a police officer is to attack the fundamental basis of our society.
“We ask police officers to keep us safe by confronting and stopping violent criminals for us. We ask them to take risks so that we donâ€™t have to.”
â€œThat is why I am clear that: life should mean life for anyone convicted of killing a police officer.â€
Since 2000 there have been 12 direct killings of police officers in the line of duty, including the 2005 murder of PC Sharon Beshenivsky in Bradford, West Yorkshire.
Her three killers each received a tariff of 35 years, meaning they must serve that length of time before becoming eligible for parole.
Under the “whole life” order proposed by Mrs May, police killers will never be eligible for parole and will normally die in jail.
In cases where a defendant is convicted of murdering a police officer, the sentencing judge will have to take the whole life order as a starting point but they will retain discretion on whether mitigating factors could reduce the sentence.
The change can be brought in relatively quickly by Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, subject to votes in the Commons and the Lords, and after consultation with the Sentencing Council.
Steve White, vice chair of the Police Federation of England, welcomed the move, suggesting that public confidence in sentences needed to be restored because so many offenders were released early.
“I think the murder of a police officer should attract a full life tariff, absolutely, we have been saying it for a long time,” he told Radio 4′s Today programme.
“It does not get any more serious than murder and there is no hierarchy in terms of which life is more important than another.”
He denied that the move would appease officers in the wake of the “damage” Mrs May had inflicted on officers’ pay and conditions.
PCs Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23, were killed in a gun and grenade attack in Manchester last year. In February this year Dale Cregan admitted their murders. He awaits sentencing.
David Bieber, the former US Marine who murdered PC Ian Broadhurst on Boxing Day 2003, received a tariff of 37 years.
There are currently 47 murderers serving whole life orders, which are at present reserved for child killers, those who have killed multiple times or whose crimes were sadistic or highly premeditated.
Simon McKay, a criminal and human rights lawyer, said it would be wrong to move towards legislation that categorised victims.
He told the Today programme: “The murder of a police officer is a vile act but this is a regressive step.
“The starting point in sentencing guidance for individuals found guilty of a crime of this nature is 30 years but it’s only a starting point. it’s for judges not politicians to make the determination.
“In 2003, the power of politicians to dictate what sentences should be was taken away from them and given back to judges … who do have the power to impose whole life tariffs.”
He said there was a distinction between a pre-planned murder and someone who spontaneously killed an officer.
Police killers should get ‘life means life’ sentences