High Court setting of minimum terms for mandatory life sentences under the Criminal Justice Act 2003
Neutral Citation Number:  EWHC 119 (QB)
Case No: 2004/714/MTS
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
Date: 30th January 2008
THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE DAVIS
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Ahmed Ali Awan
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I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A para 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.
Mr Justice Davis :
1. The applicant Ahmed Ali Awan was born on 2 April 1980. On 19 December 2002 after a trial before Mr Justice Jowitt and a jury in Northampton Crown Court he was convicted, with two others, on a count of murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and the trial judge specified a minimum term to be served of 18 years imprisonment. Because of the high profile nature of the case in the local community (Peterborough) the Judge announced the minimum term which he was recommending in open court.
2. Because of the date of the conviction I am required to have regard to the provisions of the Practice Direction  1 WLR 2551 and particularly paragraphs iv.49.22 to iv.49.31. In his comments and his sentencing remarks the Judge noted that this was a dreadful and very serious crime which had caused considerable concern in Peterborough. It was for that reason that the Judge made quite detailed sentencing remarks and publicised his recommendation as the minimum term to be served.
3. The background facts are these. The applicant, together with his co-accused, were Asians who lived in the part of Peterborough close to the city centre. The events in America of 11 September 2001 had given rise to hostility on the part of some of the younger white residents of the city against the Asian community. The defendants would have been conscious of this although there was no evidence that any of them or their families had personally suffered any harassment. On the night of 20th/21st September 2001 the applicant, together with two co-accused who were also convicted, went in a group to a night club in Peterborough. They drank an amount, although they were not actually drunk when they left the club. From the club the applicant, with others, walked to a large brick built garage at the back of the co-accused Nazir’s house. At about 1 o’clock in the morning the three relevant defendants together with a fourth person, who was acquitted and two other Muslim Asians who were prosecution witnesses, left and walked together through a badly lit area quite close to the co-accused Nazir’s home. The three relevant defendants had armed themselves with a large hunting knife, a hammer and a can of CS gas and they also had between them three balaclavas with holes and a mouth. The deceased was a teenager called Ross Parker. He was walking with his girl friend, Miss Tongs, along a cycle path. They came across the group who were complete strangers to them. As the couple walked along Ross Parker was set upon. The attack was begun by the co-accused Nazir spraying Ross Parker in the face with CS gas; and then he was stabbed three times with a knife from behind through his neck and chest, the knife penetrating each time to a depth of about 6 ins with its point twice emerging through the front of the chest. He fell to the ground and then was kicked and struck with the hammer. He bled to death. Miss Tongs ran off to get help. After the attack was over the group ran back to the garage, the three defendants and Mahrad going inside. The trial judge’s conclusion was that the knife was wielded by the applicant, Awan. His case, however, at trial had been that after walking with the other defendants from the night club he had left them outside Nazir’s house and went home. In short, he denied participation. The jury clearly rejected that. The judge’s own conclusion was that the applicant, Awan, was the ringleader and had intended to kill. The Judge also concluded that the three convicted defendants had the common purpose of finding a white male to attack simply because he was white; and this was a racist killing.
4. The applicant was 21 at the time of the murder. He had no previous convictions. Further the material before me indicates that since sentence he has behaved himself very well whilst in prison.
5. I have considered very moving victim impact statements from the mother and family of Ross Parker. I have also had regard to the written representations put in on behalf of the applicant. It is not contended that any lesser minimum term than the 18 years recommended by the trial judge should be set but it is submitted that no greater minimum term should be imposed. The applicant himself has written to say that he is very remorseful at what he has done and also has claimed that he did not say anything racist at the time. Nevertheless the trial judge’s comments cannot properly be displaced.
6. Having regard to all the circumstances, and having regard to considerations of retribution and deterrence, it seems to me, and in agreement with the trial judge’s recommendation, that the appropriate minimum term to be specified here is one of 18 years for the applicant which was the trial judge’s own recommendation. I accordingly specify the minimum term as 18 years from which there will be deducted 5 months and 5 days representing time spent on remand in custody.