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Judgments Minimum Terms


17 April 2002 - 10.00
Court 4
Royal Courts of Justice

The decision of the Lord Chief Justice on tariff in the case of Paul Ashley Chapman in accordance with the Practice Direction dated 27 July 2000 (The Times, 9 August 2000)

1. Paul Ashley Chapman was born on 8 November 1974. On 4 May 1993 at the Central Criminal Court Chapman was convicted of murder and was sentenced to be detained during Her Majesty's Pleasure. The offence was committed on 19 September 1992, at which time Barber was 17 years of age. He also pleaded guilty to rape for which he was sentenced to 8 years detention, to run concurrently with his sentence for murder.

2. Chapman had one co-defendant, Phillip John Barber, who was also sentenced to be detained during Her Majesty's Pleasure in respect of the murder, and was sentenced to 10 years detention in respect of the rape.

Facts of the Offence

3. On 19 September 1992, Chapman and Barber decided to burgle the house of a 76 year old woman, Ruth Denyer. Miss Denyer lived alone. Barber knew that the door to Miss Denyer's house would be unlocked from his work delivering milk. They entered the house at midnight and ransacked the ground floor rooms, finding a small amount of cash and Miss Denyer's pension book.

4. Chapman and Barber then proceeded upstairs where Miss Denyer lay in her bedroom either asleep or too frightened to move. They demanded to know where she kept her money. They brutally assaulted her. She was punched, stamped on, strangled, stabbed with a carving fork and beaten with a broken leg of a stool.

5. Finally, she was raped, first by Barber whilst Chapman held her legs apart, and then by Chapman.

6. Chapman and Barber left their victim dead or dying and went off, spending the rest of the night enjoying themselves. They were later arrested as a result of information given to the police by Barber's mother.

7. Chapman has numerous previous convictions for assault, as well as convictions for arson and theft.

8. The trial judge, HHJ Denison QC, found that Barber was the leader; Chapman his willing accomplice. The trial judge described the murder and rape of Miss Denyer as 'evil almost beyond belief'. The only mitigating factor was the defendants' youth. Accordingly he recommended a tariff of 20 years in respect of Barber and 18 years in respect of Chapman. The Lord Chief Justice concurred with this recommendation. The Home Secretary accepted the recommendation and the tariff in respect of Chapman was set at 18 years.

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Post Conviction Behaviour

9. I have read a number of reports on Chapman. These include a Lifer Liaison Officer's Report by M Ryan dated 25 June 2001, a report by prison officer B Hawkins dated 4 May 2001, a report by Brian Clark, Probation Officer dated 16 October 2001, a report by Barry Weeks, Lifer Probation Officer of June 2001, a report by Karen Brady of the Area Psychology Service dated September 2001, a report by Dr Lorna Roberts, Consultant Clinical Psychologist of June 2001 and a report by Dr Heather Simmons, Staff Grade Psychiatrist dated 13 July 2001. I have taken the contents of these reports into account in reaching my conclusions.

10. Chapman's initial behaviour within the prison system was unsatisfactory. He has a total of 31 adjudications recorded against him in the period November 1992 to February 2000, including 14 for violence both against members of staff and other inmates. His very early years in the prison system were marked by a number of fire-setting incidents.

11. However, his behaviour since February 2000 appears to have improved, with no further adjudications recorded against him. I note that Chapman has been employed in a position of trust, working in the prison officers' mess at HMP Maidstone and that his Personal Officer considers that he has become more mature in the last two years.

12. Chapman has completed the core Sex Offenders' Treatment Programme at HMP Maidstone. He accepts full responsibility for his part in the offence and shows remorse which is described as genuine by Mr Barry Weeks, Lifer Probation Officer at HMP Maidstone in his report of June 2001.

Representations on Behalf of Chapman

13. I have read the representations made on behalf of Chapman dated 3 October 1995, 27 June 2000 and 20 December 2001. I have taken these into account in reaching my conclusions.

14. In particular I note what is said about Chapman's own unhappy upbringing and his expression of remorse in respect of the offences he committed.

The Views of the Deceased's Family

15. Written representations have been received from the deceased's nieces, Mrs Susan Cooper and Mrs Patricia Carpenter. They express their view that they do not believe that Barber and Chapman have yet served an adequate period of time for the murder of their aunt. They also express concern at the possibility of meeting Barber and Chapman in the street should they be released.


16. Apart from his age there are no mitigating circumstances in relation to Chapman's offence. None the less 18 years was a long tariff for a person of his age and I consider it would be in order to reduce Chapman's tariff by one year to 17 to encourage Chapman to continue with his improved behaviour and attitude.

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