At Her Majesty's Pleasure

At Her Majesty's Pleasure

At Her Majesty's pleasure ("His Majesty" when appropriate) is a legal phrase that derives from the fact that the authority of the law, including the courts and the prisons, is derived from the Crown. Originating in the United Kingdom, it is now used throughout all the Commonwealth realms, though usually only in a traditional manner. The expression "Queen's Pleasure" is sometimes used in common speech to indicate a sentence that a criminal should be detained "at Her Majesty's pleasure".

In realms where the monarch is represented by a viceroy, the phrase may be modified to "at the Governor's pleasure", since the governor is the Queen's representative in the country concerned. [ Australian government publication which mentions "at the Governor's pleasure"] ] In Hong Kong, after it ceased to be a British colony, the term was modified to "at Executive discretion".

ervice to the Crown

People appointed by the sovereign to serve the Crown, for example a Governor-General or other such viceroys, and who have no set limit to the time they occupy their given office, are said to "serve at Her Majesty's pleasure".

In Canada, provincial Lieutenant Governors are appointed by the Canadian monarch's federal representative, the Governor General, and are thus described in the Constitution Act, 1867, as holding office "during the pleasure of the Governor General." Australian Ministers of the Crown are, by the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, appointed to serve "during the pleasure of the Governor-General," [ [ Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act; An Act to constitute the Commonwealth of Australia; July 9, 1900] ]

In republican governments such as that of the United States, the phrase "during good behavior" is usually used for this purpose. When an official is said to serve "at the President's pleasure", it usually means that he or she serves for at most the duration of the President's current four-year term unless explicitly retained. The primary example of this is members of the Cabinet, who generally must be explicitly re-hired by the President after the President's reelection.


The term is used to describe detainment in prison for an indefinite length of time.Section 53 of the [1933 c. 12.] Children and Young Persons Act 1933.] A judge may rule that a person be "detained at Her Majesty's pleasure" for serious offences. This is sometimes used where there is a great risk of reoffending; however, it is most often used for juvenile offenders, usually as a substitute for life sentencing (which would naturally be much longer for younger offenders). For example, the British Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 states:

"Where a person convicted of murder or any other offence the sentence for which is fixed by law as life imprisonment appears to the court to have been aged under 18 at the time the offence was committed, the court shall (notwithstanding anything in this or any other Act) sentence him to be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure." [ [ Statute Law Database: Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (c. 6) s. 90] ]

Prisoners held at Her Majesty's pleasure are frequently reviewed to determine whether their sentence can be deemed complete; although this power traditionally rested with the monarch, such reviews are now made by the Home Secretary. Minimum terms are also set, before which the prisoner cannot be released; these were originally set by the Home Secretary, but since 30 November 2000 have been set by the trial judge. [ HM Courts Service: Review of Minimum Terms set for Young Offenders detained at her Majesty's Pleasure.] Statement from the Lord Chief Justice about the 2000 changes.] Prisoners' sentences are typically deemed to be complete when the reviewing body is "satisfied that there has been a significant change in the offender's attitude and behaviour."

ee also

* Monarchy of Canada
* Monarchy of the United Kingdom
* Crime in Canada


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