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After a prolonged, yet expected batting two and throw between the House of Commons and House of Lords, the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 will come into effect on 13 April.
Crucially, the Act contains a raft of new laws that reflect the issues prevalent in today’s society. Prison terms are being significantly increased for certain terrorism offences and internet trolling, and anyone who kills a police or prison officer in the line of duty will spend life behind bars. 

For those imprisoned for child rape or serious terrorism offences, they will see an end to the automatic release half-way through their sentence. 

The Act will also see the introduction of Revenge Pornography as a new offence, the incidents of which are reported to be fairly prolific. In fact, the BBC reported in November last year that over a two and a half year timespan, across eight police areas, 149 allegations of revenge pornography had been noted. 

In addition, the new offences of causing serious injury by driving while disqualified and remaining unlawfully at large following a recall from licence, will also come into force. 

Aside from the new offences, there are a number of what we’d call ‘landmark measures’ coming into effect. These are:

  • All child rapists and terrorists serving time in prison will only be released if the independent Parole Board decides they do not pose a risk
  • Those who share private sexual images of another without consent and with intention to cause harm can face up to 2 years in prison for the new offence of revenge pornography
  • The possession of extreme pornography showing rape will be illegal
  • Internet trolls can face a maximum of 2 years in prison
  • A maximum penalty of 4 years in prison for those who commit the new offence of causing serious harm by driving while disqualified. 
  • The maximum penalty for prisoners that fail to return from temporary release will increase from 6 months to 2 years
  • Those who seek to avoid serving the rest of their sentence in custody by being unlawfully at large following a recall could spend an extra two years in prison, with the introduction of the new offence

From a reparation point of view, the Act will also see criminals pay a fee at the point of conviction, which will be directly reinvested into the Courts Service. 

Although perhaps not a subject of huge debate by the general public, changes to the insurance fraud is set to have a major impact on the personal injury claims sector. The act effectively bans law firms from offering inducements to potential clients. Courts are also required to dismiss personal injury claims where the claimant has been found to be fundamentally dishonest. It’ll certainly be interesting to see what impact these new measures will have in the long-term. 

Even jurors haven’t escaped being affected by the Act, with four new criminal offences for juror misconduct being introduced. 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. 

That’s quite a lot to digest and of course some of the changes are going to have more of an impact than others. One thing does seem clear though; the government is openly committing itself to pushing through reforms on creating new offences that directly relate to how we live today. Tougher sentencing for internet trolling, revenge pornography, and certain terrorism charges are proof of this. 

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