Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015

Criminal Justice and Courts Act 20151

The Act contains provisions for:

  • adding certain terrorism-related offences to the list of offences which qualify offenders for a mandatory ‘two strikes’ life sentence under s. 122 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.2 The maximum penalty for three terrorism-related offences is increased to life imprisonment. (Section 1)
  • amending the rules for release of offenders who receive extended sentences so that none of them will be automatically released at the two thirds point. Henceforth they will only get early release if this is approved by the Parole Board. (Section 4)
  • creating a new custodial sentence for certain terrorism-related and sexual offences. Offenders receiving this sentence will not be automatically released half way through their sentence and will only get early release if approved by the Parole Board. (Section 6)
  • introducing powers to enable offenders released on licence to have their movements electronically monitored (using GPS and other location tracking technology) as a mandatory condition of release. (Section 7)
  • creating a new criminal offence of being unlawfully at large after recall from licence or from home detention curfew. (Section 12)
  • altering the sentencing guidelines in Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 20033 so that the ‘starting point’ for murder of a police or prison officer is a mandatory life sentence with a ‘whole life tariff’ rather than a minimum period of 30 years in prison. (Section 27)
  • introducing a ‘two strikes’ minimum custodial sentence (6 months for adults) for a second conviction for unlawful possession of a knife or offensive weapon. (Section 28, in force 17 July 2015)
  • giving the Justice Secretary the legal power to create ‘secure colleges’ for young offenders (which may be provided by the private sector) as proposed in Transforming Youth Custody: Putting Education at the Heart of Detention4 (February 2013). (Sections 38–39; in force 20 March 2015)
  • amending the rules about young offenders who returned to court for breach of a referral order (see Penal System p. 276) or a new offence committed while on a referral order. Currently in such cases the referral order is automatically revoked. The new provisions permit the court to allow the referral order to continue. (Sections 43–45)
  • restricting the use of ‘simple’ cautions for some more serious offences and persistent offenders. (Section 17)

Except where otherwise stated, the above provisions all came into force on 13 April 2015.



1 Full text of the Act and explanatory notes are available online at:

2 Summary available elsewhere on this website.

3 Summary available elsewhere on this website.

4 Summary available elsewhere on this website.