MINIMUM TERM

A total sentence of seven years and eight months’ detention was appropriate in the case of a young offender who had pleaded guilty to possessing Class B drugs, a sub-machine gun and compatible ammunition, having been pressured into holding them for a third party. Those who looked after lethal weapons for others had to expect severe sentences.

[2017] EWCA Crim 1509

The appropriate sentence where an offender who had attacked police officers with a hammer had pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent, was life imprisonment with a minimum term of three years, taking into account the offender’ guilty plea, the early release provisions, and the time that he had already spent in custody.

A minimum term of 10 years’ imprisonment, equating to a determinate sentence of 20 years, imposed in respect of a life sentence following an offender’s conviction for historical offences of rape and indecent assault, was reduced to six years to reflect the principle of totality of sentence. The offender had previously been sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment for similar sexual offences committed close in time to the index offences, which effectively equated to a total sentence before reduction of 32 years.

[2017] NICA 36

Minimum terms of 29 and 26 years’ imprisonment for murder committed by two 22-year-old offenders were not manifestly excessive where they had subjected the victim to a brutal attack in his own home. The lengthier term for one offender reflected the further aggravating factor of his guilty plea to perverting the course of justice, his previous convictions and lack of remorse. It was also relevant that the offenders had conspired to rob the victim, for which they received concurrent sentences of 13 years.

[2017] EWCA Crim 834

An applicant had not been sufficiently prompt and so was out of time to apply for judicial review of a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland not to refer a sentence to the Court of Appeal for being unduly lenient. Neither a pending application for legal aid, nor an intention to try and change the DPP’s mind were reasonable objective excuses for applying late, and ordering the DPP to lodge a provisional notice of referral pending the outcome of the judicial review application was contrary to the legislative scheme and would cause hardship.

[2017] NIQB 66

The court refused permission to amend grounds of appeal out of time to include a ground relating to joint enterprise, where the application was made by an offender convicted of murder before the decisions in R. v Jogee (Ameen Hassan) [2016] UKSC 8 and R. v Johnson (Lewis) [2016] EWCA Crim 1613. Substantial injustice had not been demonstrated sufficient for exceptional leave to be granted.

[2017] EWCA Crim 740

Minimum terms of 17-and-a-half years’ detention were appropriate for a 14-year-old boy and girl who had planned and brutally carried out the murder of the girl’s mother and younger sister. The removal of reporting restrictions was a reasonable and proportionate measure, notwithstanding the age of the appellants, properly balancing their welfare against ECHR art.10 rights and the public interest.

[2017] EWCA Crim 739

Life sentences with a total minimum term of 23 years were imposed on offenders who had tortured a couple in their 60s in order to force them to hand over a large quantity of cash and had later shot a man in the head in a conspiracy to kill him.

[2017] EWCA Crim 1353

A person suffering from schizophrenia who killed while intoxicated could rely on the defence of diminished responsibility if their condition was of such severity that, even without intoxication, it would have impaired their responsibility. They could also rely on the defence if the schizophrenia was coupled with drink or drug dependence which together substantially impaired responsibility.

[2017] EWCA Crim 647

A minimum term of 24 years imposed on an 18-year-old following his conviction for a gang-related murder would be reduced to 21 years to ensure that there was no unfair disparity between his sentence and the 17-year terms imposed on his two co-defendants, who were aged 17 and 16 at the time of the offence.

[2017] EWCA Crim 705

Minimum terms of 28 years’ imprisonment were appropriate following the conviction of two brothers for the callous, carefully planned murder of a woman with whom one of the brothers had been in a sexual relationship. The motive for the murder involved an element of gain, as the mutual employer of the victim and the brother actively discouraged such relationships between employees, which placed his employment and financial future at risk.

[2017] EWCA Crim 419

A judge’s direction in a murder trial as to the meaning of “substantial” impairment within the Homicide Act 1957 s.2 as regards the defence of diminished responsibility had amply complied with the guidance given in R. v Golds (Mark Richard) [2016] UKSC 61; she had not elaborated unduly and the conviction was safe. The offender’s sentence of life imprisonment with a minimum term of 22 years, whilst severe, was not manifestly excessive.

A sentence of life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years imposed following a conviction for murder by way of joint enterprise was not excessive. It was not appropriate to reduce an otherwise appropriate minimum term because a co-accused might have been treated leniently, unless the differences in sentencing would cause right-thinking members of the public to consider that the offender had a justified sense of grievance.

[2017] EWCA Crim 107

It would be unjust to impose the minimum sentence of three years’ imprisonment for a third domestic burglary, provided for by the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 s.111, where the offender was making good progress in addressing his alcohol abuse, pursuant to a community order with an alcohol treatment requirement imposed in respect of a previous offence.

[2017] EWCA Crim 102

The nine-year minimum term of a sentence of life detention was reduced to eight years for a 16-year-old who had committed involuntary manslaughter approaching the highest level for culpability. The 24-year notional determinate term that would have applied to an adult was appropriate but had not been reduced sufficiently to reflect the offender’s age.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1969

An informal recognition of a suspect by a police officer from a colleague’s photographs from an unrelated case was different from the formal procedure set out in PACE Code D. A judge had been right to leave the issue of the police officer’s identification evidence for the jury to decide with appropriate directions.

[2016] EWCA Crim 2124

A sentence of life imprisonment with a minimum term of 10 years was appropriate following a conviction for attempted murder where the offender was suffering from a mental disorder requiring hospital treatment. The judge had not erred in finding that the mental disorder could be appropriately dealt with by imposing a sentence of imprisonment with a hospital and limitation direction under the Mental Health Act 1983 s.45A. However, the mental disorder was a significant factor which lowered the offender’s culpability.

[2016] EWCA Crim 2023

A judge had erred in taking a starting point of 30 years when setting a minimum term of imprisonment in respect of a defendant’s life sentence for murder. The defendant had set his partner alight which had led to her death, but the judge had placed too much weight on cases of pre-planned and deliberate arson causing death which attracted 30-year starting points. A starting point of 15 years was more appropriate.

[2016] EWCA Crim 2098

The court refused permission to appeal against a conviction for murder where the defendant had relied on diminished responsibility. The reverse burden of proof in respect of diminished responsibility in the Homicide Act 1957 s.2(2) did not infringe ECHR art.6.

[2016] EWCA Crim 2043

A two-year suspended sentence imposed on a man who had pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited weapon was unduly lenient. The minimum term of five years’ imprisonment provided for in the Firearms Act 1968 s.51A would be imposed in its place, there being no exceptional circumstances.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1961

An offender sentenced to life imprisonment after an improvised explosive device he had made killed a US soldier in Iraq, had his minimum term reduced from 38 years to 35 years. The reduction reflected the fact that he had played a lesser role in the bomb-making process and his actions had partly been designed to protect the Sunni community from the Shiite militia. However, the offender’s application under the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 s.23 to admit evidence from two witnesses whose names would only be disclosed to the prosecution within a tightly confined confidentiality ring, as part of his appeal against conviction, was rejected.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1616

A sentence of five years’ detention imposed on a 20-year-old offender for possession of a prohibited weapon, namely a stun gun disguised as a lipstick, was reduced to three years as there were exceptional circumstances relating to the offence and the offender’s personal mitigation to justify a departure from the prescribed minimum term.

[2016] EWCA Crim 2178

A minimum term of 19 years imposed following an offender’s guilty plea to the murder of his step-mother, which involved repeated stabbing with a kitchen knife followed by stamping to the head, was not a fair reflection of the competing aggravating and mitigating factors and was manifestly excessive. A minimum term of 16 years and eight months was appropriate.

[2015] EWCA Crim 2532

A sentence of life imprisonment with a minimum term of 14 years was appropriate following an offender’s convictions for grievous bodily harm and child destruction. The offender had carried out a planned attack on his pregnant girlfriend, after unsuccessfully attempting to persuade her to have an abortion. He had enlisted the help of another man and they had kicked the girlfriend and stamped on her stomach. She had sustained life-threatening injuries and the unborn child had died.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1555

If an offender had been sentenced for two separate drug trafficking offences at the same time he would have been given concurrent sentences. The effect of the second sentence running from the date of its imposition, after the offender had served seven months of the first sentence, had effectively given him an additional sentence of 14 months’ imprisonment. The injustice was remedied by replacing the second sentence with one of 54 months instead of 67 months.

An offender’s progress in prison completing courses, jobs, charitable work and acting as a buddy did not amount to exceptional and unforeseen progress such as to justify reducing his minimum term.

[2016] EWHC 2008 (Admin)

An offender had reached the level of exceptional and unforeseen progress in prison required to reduce his minimum term following his murder conviction.

[2016] EWHC 2007 (Admin)

A judge had been entitled to impose a whole life order and a 30-year minimum term under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 Sch.21 para.4 and para.5 when sentencing two serving prisoners to life imprisonment for the murder of a fellow-prisoner in a “savage, brutal and frenzied” knife attack.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1047

A judge had erred in imposing the mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment following guilty pleas to firearms offences. The appropriate sentence for three counts of possession of a disguised weapon, namely a stun gun disguised as a torch, was two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment where the mitigating factors had a cumulative effect and there were exceptional circumstances which justified the imposition of a lesser sentence.

Minimum terms imposed in respect of life sentences for murder were reduced as, notwithstanding the appalling and terrorising nature of the criminality involved, extended over two grave incidents involving firearms, terms of 26 to 36 years were too long given the relatively young age of the offenders and their lack of a history of serious violent offending.

[2016] EWCA Crim 890

The court considered the admissibility of fresh evidence under the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 s.23 in appeals against sentences. It was in the interests of justice to admit evidence of the deficiencies in an expert’s report about the dangerousness of a dog that was ordered to be destroyed. If there was to be a trial of a key fact in determining whether there were exceptional circumstances to depart from the mandatory five-year sentence for firearms offences, it should be treated as a Newton hearing.

[2016] EWCA Crim 801

A judge who imposed life sentences on three offenders following their convictions for conspiracy to murder had erred in failing to provide specific reasons for departing from the normal rule that the minimum term to be served should not exceed half the notional determinate sentence.

[2016] EWCA Crim 474

An extended sentence with a custodial element of 18 years imposed on a young offender following his guilty plea to attempted murder was unduly lenient. The condition of seriousness in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 Pt 12 s.225(2)(b) was satisfied where the offender had used extreme violence and had caused the victim to suffer life-changing injuries. A sentence of custody for life, with a minimum term of 10 years and 6 months, was substituted.

[2016] EWCA Crim 749

A mentally disordered offender’s culpability and responsibility for killing his parents in a savage and sustained knife attack was significant, notwithstanding his diminished responsibility. A life sentence with a minimum term of 19 years and 73 days’ imprisonment, together with a hospital and limitation direction under the Mental Health Act 1983 s.45A, was appropriate.

[2016] EWCA Crim 733

When reviewing a tariff imposed by the secretary of state on a life prisoner for murder, the seriousness of the offences was to be assessed in the context of the guidance in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 Sch.21, while considering the judicial recommendations made at the time of sentencing. The original tariff fixed by the secretary of state should not just be replaced by the judicial recommendation, but in the instant case the seriousness of the offender’s murder offences had already been reflected in the Lord Chief Justice’s recommended tariff.

[2016] EWHC 3533 (Admin)

The court declined to set a minimum term under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 s.276 and Sch.22 para.2(b) in relation to a life prisoner who had pleaded guilty to six counts of murder in 1979. A whole life tariff was appropriate because his offences fell into the category of “exceptional seriousness” in Sch.21 para.4(1), and the fact that he suffered from a personality disorder was not enough to affect that conclusion.

[2016] EWHC 731 (QB)

Where a prisoner had been sentenced to life imprisonment, under the law of England and Wales, the court would only take into account the seriousness of the offence once, namely when the minimum term was set, whereas under German law, the German court would consider the seriousness of the offence both when the term of imprisonment was first imposed and also at the 15-year review provided by the German Criminal Code.

[2015] EWHC 3613 (Admin)

A life sentence prisoner’s progress in custody could not be described as exceptional so as to justify a recommendation for the reduction in his 13-year minimum term.

[2016] EWHC 383 (Admin)

A sentence of 40 months’ imprisonment imposed on an offender following his guilty plea to a domestic burglary was reduced to 31 months’ imprisonment where the judge had taken a starting point which did not accord with the relevant sentencing guidelines.

[2016] EWCA Crim 282

A sentence of three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment, following a conviction for possession of a firearm, was increased to five years where the judge had wrongly departed from the statutory minimum sentence where there had been no exceptional circumstances.

Applying the guidance in R v Andrews [2013] 2 Cr App R 5, a starting point of three years’ imprisonment was appropriate in the case of a prolific burglar who was being sentenced under the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 s.111 for a sneak dwelling-house burglary in which nothing had been stolen or damaged and the householders were not disturbed.

[2016] EWCA Crim 466

A sentence with a minimum term of nine years and three months’ imprisonment imposed for nine counts of rape was quashed as the minimum term had been wrongly increased by six months to reflect a breach of a suspended sentence imposed for breach of a sexual offences prevention order. The offence for which the suspended sentence had been received was not a specified offence and therefore should not have been added to the minimum term.

[2015] EWCA Crim 1917

The court granted an extension of time and allowed the appeal of an offender who, 14 years after being sentenced, sought to argue that the judge should have given credit for time served in custody on remand. The offender had sufficiently explained his delay and could establish that the judge had intended to give credit.

[2015] EWCA Crim 2442

A minimum term of 18 years was appropriate for an offence of murder where the offender stabbed the victim after leading him away from a confrontation, but did not have an intention to kill.

[2015] EWCA Crim 1953

A suspended sentence of two years’ imprisonment imposed on a 54-year-old woman following her plea of guilty to possessing a prohibited firearm was unduly lenient. Although the woman had been in possession of the firearm for only a few minutes without knowing what it was, she had nevertheless been involved in attempting to hide evidence from the police. Her powerful personal mitigation together with the circumstances justified a sentence of less than the five-year statutory minimum, but did not justify a suspended term.

[2015] EWCA Crim 1990

Sentencing judges in the British Virgin Islands were entitled to look at sentencing practices in other countries for guidance in murder cases; however, they should not bind themselves too closely to the regime of a particular country, including the UK. Local judges were in the best position to assess the appropriate tariff in their jurisdiction, subject to the statutory provisions applying there.

[2015] UKPC 42

When sentencing an offender to life imprisonment for attempted murder, a judge had been entitled to use a starting point for the minimum term above the range for level one offences in the sentencing guidelines. The offender had a previous conviction for manslaughter during which he had stabbed his first victim to death, he was on licence at the time of the attempted murder offence and had taken a knife with him to the second victim’s home in order to commit the offence.

[2015] EWCA Crim 2540

In a trial for murder involving four co-defendants, a judge had properly admitted bad character evidence of one offender’s previous convictions for robbery and possessing a bladed article under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 s.101(1)(d) and s.101(1)(e).

ECHR art.7 had not been breached where an offender, sentenced in 2014 to life imprisonment for a manslaughter committed 14 years previously, had had his minimum term determined on current sentencing practice rather than the practice of the courts at the time of the offence. Unlike the minimum term for mandatory life sentences for murder which were subject to the statutory regime in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the calculation of the minimum term in discretionary life sentences for manslaughter was an exercise in judicial discretion.

[2015] EWCA Crim 1426

The Court of Appeal refused an application to treat an abandonment of an appeal against a sentence for murder as a nullity where the offender had not been relying upon incorrect advice when he abandoned his appeal.

[2015] EWCA Crim 1555