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Page last updated at 07:48 GMT, Wednesday, 8 September 2010 08:48 UK

Murder law change 'sensible'

The director of Public Prosecutions has joined calls for first- and second-degree murder charges to be introduced in England and Wales, along the lines of the US system.

Keir Starmer told the Today programme that he supports the change, which was also advocated by his predecessor, Sir Ken McDonald.

The current single charge of murder, and its punishment of life imprisonment, is regarded by some as too rigid.

The former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, now Lord Blair, told presenter Justin Webb that he agreed with the idea.

"While murder must remain a very specific crime, with a very serious penalty attached to it," he said, "there are, and I think everybody can see it, different kinds of murder and different levels of culpability in those murders and I think the Americans have a very sensible idea that there are degrees of murder."

But Diane Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, an area noted for gang violence, warned against rushing into a change.

Backing a review into the current system, she added that "we delude ourselves in thinking that if we introduce gradations of murder we will break down the culture which makes gang members so reluctant to grass".

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