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R v Home Secretary, ex parte Venables

[1997] 3 All ER 97

Case summary last updated at 07/02/2020 15:15 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case R v Home Secretary, ex parte Venables

This case occurred when the Home sec could still determine the length of sentences of prisoners, and he sentenced the killers of Jamie Bulger initially to 8 years and then, on the recommendation of the Lord Chief Justice, to 10 years. Following a massive media campaign he moved it to 15 years. HL said that (1) the Home sec had failed to have regard to the development of the child along with deterrence, risk, retribution etc and that therefore his decision was unlawful. (2) That, in exercising a judicial function, the Home Sec had to be detached from public opinion and make a decision without regard to irrelevant factors such as public opinion. Lord Goff said that if a home sec is to take on a sentencing power then he must exercise it in the same way as a judge. Lord Steyn said that in undertaking to breach separation of powers, parliament would have intended the Home Sec to act like a judge and indeed the Home Office stated that. A judge, unlike the Home Sec, would have ignored a newspaper campaign and thus the Home sec mad a decision that was not dispassionate and was therefore unlawful. 

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