The implications for law firms of planned tougher sentences
By Charlie Britten
04 Mar 2020
Government plans for tougher sentencing may have significant implications for criminal law firms and their clients.
At any general election, law firms will have good reason to scan the rival manifestos and study what the implications of the result could be for the legal sector. This was particularly true last December.
In the run-up to the election, the issue of crime and sentencing jumped to the top of the agenda when a man who had served jail time for a terrorist offence launched a fatal knife attack at a central London rehabilitation event he had been attending.
This led to promises by the government to give stiffer sentences to terrorists and other serious offenders, with early release being curbed. While some accused prime minister Boris Johnson of politicising the incident - including the father of one of the victims - the promise of stronger sentencing had already been published in the Conservative manifesto.
Since the election, the Queen’s Speech has unveiled details of the proposed legislation for increasing sentences. This included emergency legislation to prevent the early release of dozens of those convicted of terrorism-related offences.
What measures were in the manifesto?
However, the proposed tougher sentencing regime pledged in the manifesto was not just about terrorists, but a range of serious offenders. These included:
- Ending automatic halfway release for those serving serious crimes
- Life imprisonment without parole for anyone murdering a child
- Harsher sentences for assaults on members of the emergency services
- 10,000 more prison places - although this may have as much to do with reducing overcrowding as putting more people behind bars for longer.
- Alongside this was a pledge to toughen electronic tagging conditions and introduce stronger community sentencing.
How might tougher sentencing affect law firms and their clients?
For criminal law firms, such pledges have significant implications for the way they market themselves to their clients, creating a potential need to update buyer personas in their marketing:
- The ability of defence lawyers to secure convictions, acquittals or successful appeals against conviction will be even more important given that even more is at stake for those accused of serious crime.
- Criminal lawyers dealing with convicted individuals will need to emphasise their skills in securing reduced sentences and ensuring efforts at rehabilitation by their clients are recognised. This may be especially useful when dealing with matters such as electronic tagging.
- Lawyers working to secure convictions may be able to secure extra custom from those in the emergency services
Another planned change is a review of the parole system, which would give victims of crime a chance to attend hearings. This will create a new role for lawyers in helping such victims to prepare to play their role in the process. Because many people will be involved in legal processes they are unfamiliar with, good client communication will be more important than ever.
Apart from all this, it is possible that criminal lawyers may simply have a larger potential market and workload, should pledges to use online technology to detect cyber crime more effectively and crackdown on organised crime ranging from modern slavery to ‘county lines’ drug running be as effective as hoped.
What new crimes will be created?
For the legal sector, it may be nothing new to have to contend with new legislation. After all, there have been many changes in the law in recent years that have created whole new forms of offence, from using a mobile phone while driving to breaching the provisions of workplace discrimination law. Many legal specialists will have found ample work in handling cases relating to these laws.
In this parliament, a new crime of intentional trespass will be created and police will be have greater powers of arrest to apprehend those setting up unauthorised traveller camps. This could create another field for specialist lawyers as well as a new market.
The law never stands still. Every government will have its own priorities and this will change the nature of legal work. In 2020, this is likely to be as true as ever.
How can BeUniqueness help?
At BeUniqueness, we know the importance of making sure your marketing is accurately directed at your target market. We can not only help you develop a digital marketing strategy to do this, but also to adjust existing strategies to take account of changing legal circumstances.