MURDER

A conviction for murder was not rendered unsafe by fresh evidence from three witnesses. The jury had been satisfied that the defendant was solely and exclusively responsible for the activities involving identity theft and fraud against the deceased, and that the connection between those activities and the victim’s death established him as the only possible perpetrator of the murder. The evidence of the new witnesses could not have disrupted that conclusion and there was no possibility of a different outcome if the fresh evidence had been heard by any jury.

[2017] EWCA Crim 1414

The court determined that the interpretation in R. (on the application of Collins) v Secretary of State for Justice [2016] EWHC 33 (Admin) of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 s.76(5A) on self-defence in householder cases was correct. The court also gave guidance on summing up in such cases.

[2017] EWCA Crim 1391

Where it was asserted in any murder trial that both self-defence and loss of control arose, a rigorous evaluation of the evidence would be required before the issue of loss of control could be left to the jury.

[2017] EWCA Crim 1359

The court refused an application under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 s.76 to quash an individual’s acquittal for murder in light of new DNA evidence. Although the evidence was strong, the individual was detained in a high security psychiatric hospital and only had weeks left to live due to terminal cancer, such that a retrial would not be in the interests of justice.

[2017] EWCA Crim 1333

A judge’s intervention and direction to the jury during defence counsel’s closing speech did not affect the safety of a defendant’s conviction. She ought to have put to counsel what she intended to say before she said it, and if she intended to criticise him in front of the jury, she ought to have raised that with him first. Overall, however, the summing-up was thorough and fair.

[2017] EWCA Crim 1174

The court quashed a sentence of custody for life imposed in 2002 on a young offender for attempted murder. In the light of fresh psychiatric evidence, which confirmed that the offender had been suffering from a psychopathic disorder at the time of the offence, hospital and restriction orders were appropriate.

[2017] EWCA Crim 937

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) Act (c.18) s.48(2) was in violation of the Constitution of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1979 Sch.1 para.8 in so far as it precluded an extension of time for appeals against the death sentence. The words “Except in the case of a conviction involving sentence of death” in s.48(2) should be treated as deleted.

[2017] UKPC 18

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

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

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

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

The Criminal Cases Review Commission had been justified in not referring the claimant’s conviction for murder to the Court of Appeal.

[2017] EWHC 1219 (Admin)

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

The Privy Council dismissed a husband’s appeal against his conviction for the murder of his estranged wife. Evidence of the husband’s past violence towards her showed that he bore her ill-will and had the motive and inclination to attack her. The evidence did not go to his general credibility and was therefore admissible evidence in accordance with Makin v Attorney General of New South Wales [1894] A.C. 57.

[2017] UKPC 14

Evidence produced after a conviction indicating that the defendant had mental limitations, which meant he had not been afforded any measures for vulnerable defendants before or during his trial, did not make the trial unfair. Although a joint enterprise direction was not compliant with the later case of R v Jogee (2016) UKSC 8, a Jogee-compliant direction would have made no difference as the defendant’s intention could not have been clearer.

A sentence of six years and eight months’ imprisonment for attempted murder, where the offender had stabbed his friend several times in an unplanned attack following an argument, was not unduly lenient. Although the friend had suffered serious and long-term physical harm in the form of facial disfigurement, which justified a starting point of 15 years’ imprisonment, the offender’s immediate reporting of the incident to the police and his remorse were exceptional and required additional allowance going beyond the one-third discount for his early guilty plea.

[2017] EWCA Crim 577

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

The board considered the law applicable to mentally impaired persons who had been convicted of offences which carried a mandatory death sentence. Where an offender suffered from significant mental impairment, including severe learning difficulties, such that it would be unconstitutional to carry out the death sentence, the judicial exercise of the prerogative of mercy was capable of providing proper constitutional protection.

[2017] UKPC 6

A marine’s conviction for the murder of a wounded insurgent would be replaced by a verdict of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility. At the time of the killing, the marine had been suffering from an adjustment disorder which substantially impaired his ability to form a rational judgment and exercise self-control.

[2017] EWCA Crim 190

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

Convictions for robbery and murder were not rendered unsafe by the admission into evidence of a co-accused’s guilty plea. The Court of Appeal also considered the impact on the convictions of the decision in R. v Jogee (Ameen Hassan) [2016] UKSC 8 in relation to the issue of joint enterprise.

[2017] EWCA Crim 268

The Court of Appeal did not have the power to certify a point of law of general public importance under the Criminal Appeal Act 1968 s.33(2) when leave to appeal had been refused. The phrase “decision of the Court of Appeal on appeal” in s.33 clearly referred to the determination of an appeal which had been pursued with leave and determined on its merits.

[2017] EWCA Crim 59

Although a police officer had prompted evidence in a murder investigation from an unreliable witness, the CPS had taken an independent decision to charge four individuals and their claims for malicious prosecution failed. For the same reason a claim for misfeasance in public office against the officer failed with respect to three of the four; he had not caused them any loss because the CPS would have prosecuted them anyway.

[2017] EWHC 273 (QB)

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 jury in a murder trial had been entitled to reject the defence of diminished responsibility under the Homicide Act 1957 s.2 for an accused with an autistic spectrum disorder who had strangled a fellow care home resident in order to have sex with her undisturbed. The judge’s misstatement in his summing up that that outcome was irrational, despite one expert’s evidence to the contrary, and that the jury should focus on the decision-making process of the accused to assess his ability to form a rational judgment, had been helpful rather than adverse to the accused. However, it was over-refined to separate the decision-making process from the outcome and could lead to undue glossing of s.2.

A conviction for murder was safe, as a purported confession to the murder, made by a person who had been mentally ill at the time and had since retracted it, was unreliable and incapable of belief.

[2017] EWCA Crim 31

An appeal against a conviction for murder was remitted to the Court of Appeal of Jamaica as it was unsatisfactory for the Board to attempt to resolve, on paper, a factual dispute between the defendant and his counsel about legal advice.

[2017] UKPC 1

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

A conviction for murder was unsafe where the prosecution had failed to disclose during the trial a crucial element of a police report which severely undermined the evidence of a key witness. The remaining evidence was dubious and provided only a weak case.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1968

A judge in a murder trial had erred in refusing to leave alternative counts of gross negligence manslaughter and unlawful act manslaughter to the jury, as both potential defences to the charge of murder had been plausibly arguable in the circumstances. Also, although a plea to manslaughter had not been accepted by the Crown, defence counsel’s failure to reveal the precise basis on which the plea had been made was unsatisfactory.

[2016] NICA 51

Social media messages in which a defendant had said that she might stab her boyfriend when stressed or angry had been correctly admitted as evidence that might assist the jury in determining whether the boyfriend’s later death as a result of a knife in the heart had been an accident or a stabbing by the defendant with the necessary intent.

[2016] EWCA Crim 2237

The Supreme Court clarified the meaning of “substantially” in relation to the partial defence of diminished responsibility set out in the Homicide Act 1957 s.2, which required an abnormality of mental functioning which, among other things, substantially impaired the defendant’s ability to understand the nature of his conduct, form a rational judgment or exercise self-control. The court also set out how juries should be directed on the issue.

[2016] UKSC 61

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

Sentences of nine years’ detention imposed following convictions for manslaughter were unduly lenient and replaced with 15-year sentences. The offenders, aged 17 and 18 at the time, had knowingly participated in a plan to assault and injure the victim, knowing that at least one knife would be used; those factors brought the case closer to murder and the offenders had to be sentenced accordingly.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1715

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

A conviction for murder on the basis of joint enterprise was upheld where there was evidence that the appellant was present at the scene of the crime at the relevant time and had actively encouraged criminal activity with the intention of doing so. The judge’s direction to the jury had been sufficient in relation both to joint enterprise and to the matters which had to be established before guilt could be proved.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1887

The court upheld an offender’s conviction for the murder of a fellow sex worker. The evidence against her, although circumstantial, was overwhelmingly strong, and the judge had not erred in admitting hearsay statements or evidence of bad character.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1712

It had been open to a judge to rule that a witness was hostile where he had made a previous inconsistent statement that he had been at the scene of a murder and had seen the attackers, but had subsequently testified that he had not witnessed the attack.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1913

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 conviction for murder, where the offender had committed the offence in a state of drug-induced psychosis whilst in an at-risk state for schizophrenia, was not quashed as the jury directions had been clear in relation to intent and diminished responsibility.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1940

In refusing conjoined appeals and applications for permission to appeal against conviction, the court considered the impact on the convictions of the decision in R. v Jogee (Ameen Hassan) [2016] UKSC 8, [2016] 2 W.L.R. 681 in relation to the issue of joint enterprise.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1613

The Northern Ireland Court of Appeal did not have jurisdiction to re-open six appeals against conviction arising out of the Supreme Court’s judgment in R. v Jogee (Ameen Hassan) [2016] UKSC 8 which clarified the law on accessory liability. Putting the law right did not render all convictions invalid which had been arrived at over many years by faithfully applying the law as had been laid down in previous authorities. The appropriate recourse was for the defendants to refer their cases to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

[2016] NICA 40

Where a minor was in custody for police questioning, the law in many countries was that police interviews were to take place in the presence of an “appropriate adult”. The police should inform that person that he was not expected to act simply as an observer. The purpose of an “appropriate adult” was to advise the person being questioned, to assess whether the interview was being conducted properly and fairly, and to facilitate communication. In the instant case, a 17-year-old’s confession to murder was rendered unreliable by the fact that informal and unrecorded interviews had taken place whilst the police had been trying to locate an appropriate adult, who had then not been told his full function.

[2016] UKPC 29

A 17-year sentence, following convictions for cruelty to a 17-month-old child and for his murder, was increased to 20 years where the offender had subjected the child to sustained violence in the weeks leading up to his death. A sentence of 20 months’ imprisonment imposed on the child’s mother following her guilty plea to child cruelty was increased to 30 months, where she had failed to alert the authorities to the injuries that she was aware the child had sustained.

[2016] EWCA Crim 2108

Where, in a criminal case, the Crown relied on several incidents to establish propensity on the part of the defendant, it did not have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that each incident had happened in the way alleged, and the jury did not have to consider the facts of each individual incident in isolation from one another. The jury had to consider the evidence in the round to determine whether propensity had been established to the criminal standard.

[2016] UKSC 55

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

The court allowed three offenders’ appeals against their sentences for murder, manslaughter and perverting the course of justice. The minimum term applicable to the sentence of life imprisonment for murder was reduced from 18 years to 16 years, the custodial term of 12 years for the extended sentence for manslaughter was reduced to 10 years, and the sentence of three years and four months for perverting the course of justice was reduced to two years.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1644

The convictions of two defendants for murder were unsafe and were quashed, as they relied largely on the credibility of a prosecution witness subsequently shown to be unreliable, and involved a failure by the prosecution to disclose evidence supporting defence attacks on that reliability.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1392

A conviction for murder was not arguably unsafe where, although a clear cause of death could not be ascertained, the issue of causation was left to the jury. Leave was granted to amend the grounds of appeal to deal with the way in which the question of causation was left to the jury.

[2016] EWCA Crim 1456

A judge had been entitled to withdraw the defence of loss of self-control, pursuant to the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 s.54 and s.55, from the jury where a man had sought to raise the defence when charged with murdering his wife.