Report No. 35
Topic Number 39(b)
Whether normal sentence should be imprisonment for life
790. Whether normal sentence should be imprisonment for life.-
We shall now consider the question whether imprisonment for life should be the normal sentence and the sentence of death should be imposed only when aggravating circumstances exist. For the reasons given below, we are not in favour of such a change. In the first place, the existing scheme has worked satisfactorily, and no serious criticism has been made thereof. In the second place, it will be difficult to define aggravating circumstances, and in the absence of such a definition, the provision would not serve a particularly useful purpose.
If the sentence of death is to serve as a deterrent to the fullest extent, it will not be desirable to make it appear that the normal sentence for murder is imprisonment for life and death sentence is to .be awarded only in extreme cases. Moreover, an enumeration or illustration of "aggravating circumstances" will be open to the same criticism that the division of murders into categories is subject to1.
1. See discussion relating to categories of murder, paras. 704-705, supra.