Minimum terms set for young offenders by the Lord Chief Justice
Royal Courts of Justice
The amended decision of the Lord Chief Justice on minimum term in the case of Christopher Lee Chislett in accordance with the Practice Direction dated 27 July 2000 (The Times, 9 August 2000)
1. Christopher Lee Chislett ("Chislett") was born on 20 December 1979. On 9 April 1998 at the Swansea Crown Court Chislett was convicted of murder and sentenced to be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure. The offence was committed in the early hours of 30 July 1997 at which time Chislett was 17 years of age.
2. On the night of the offence Chislett, together with two of his friends, Wyndham Richard Thomas and Alan Naylor (his co-defendants), went out together to burgle. The victim, Christopher Williams, had travelled to Wolverhampton with a friend to buy a motorcycle. Upon his return to his home at Maesteg, South Wales, he confronted Chislett and the co-defendants whilst they were engaged in burglary on his home. His fiancée and their young daughter were both asleep in the house at the time and the front door was unlocked because his fiancée was not sure whether the victim had a key to get in upon his return.
3. The victim chased Chislett and the co-defendants down the road. There was then a fight during which the victim received a single fatal stab wound to the heart.
4. The trial judge, Mr Justice Maurice Kay, recommended 17 years with concurrent sentences of 7 years, 3 1/2 years and 4 years detention in a Young Offenders’ Institution for Aggravated Burglary, Burglary and Attempted Wounding with Intent.
5. The judge stated that he was satisfied that it was Chislett who had inflicted the fatal wound, that Chislett routinely carried a knife and that he would not hesitate to use it if he could not escape. The judge viewed Chislett as "a remarkably determined and ruthless criminal" for his age at the time of the offence and he stated that he had "no reason to suppose that he will not remain dangerous". The judge further stated that he was certain that Chislett would reoffend.
6. The Lord Chief Justice recommended a minimum term of 14 to 15 years as he was reluctant to recommend quite such a long term as the trial judge for a defendant of Chislett’s age. He agreed with the trial judge that it might be judged unsafe to release Chislett at the end of the recommended term and respected "the judge’s assessment of the defendants’ relative responsibilities."
7. The Secretary of State has not set a tariff for Chislett.
8. Chislett had previous convictions for dwelling house burglaries in 1995 and 1997 and for a public order offence in 1994. The later burglary involved a confrontation with the householder, who was stabbed during the incident. Chislett received 18 months youth custody.
9. Chislett’s co-defendants were also convicted of murder and the tariff was set at 10 years for Wyndham Richard Thomas (aged 19 at the time of the offence) and 14 years for Alan Naylor (aged 26 at the time of the offence). Both co-defendants had numerous previous convictions. Naylor had previous convictions for dwelling house burglaries in 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993 and convictions for violence in 1988, 1989 and 1992. He was further convicted of public order offences in 1995 and 1997. Thomas had prior convictions for dwelling house burglaries in 1991, 1993, 1995 and a conviction for violence in 1994.
10. Chislett was initially placed at HMYOI Swinfen Hall ("Swinfen") from HMP Parc. He had 5 Governor’s adjudications for minor offences at HMP Parc, but only one at Swinfen. This was for abuse towards a health-care worker who had refused to dispense his medication, prior to his undertaking a pre-arranged visit to an external hospital to receive treatment for his broken leg (Chislett lost 7 day’s pay).
11. Chislett’s reports from Swinfen are uniformly good except for the one incident described above. He was well thought of by staff and he enjoyed enhanced status. Chislett broke his ankle whilst playing rugby and his behaviour was reported to have been "of the highest standard" especially in relation to the inevitable frustrations and concerns of a long-term injury (F75 Report/Officer Simpson/Swinfen/October 2000).
12. Chislett has attended the following courses:
- Relapse Prevention
- Enhanced Thinking
- Alcohol Access
- Social and Life Skills
- Modular Drugs Course
13. Chislett was moved to HMP Bristol on 10 August 2001. He worked in the woodwork shop and is now employed in a trustee position at the library. Chislett has completed his NVQ in bricklaying. Chislett is on the Enhanced regime and is regarded as demonstrating a more mature and responsible attitude. He mixes well with both staff and fellow prisoners and he has had no adjudications recorded against him since his arrival at this prison. (Update Report/HMP Bristol/Governor Memery/14 December 2001).
14. A report from Chislett’s probation officer at Swinfen commented that Chislett is easily led (Assessment Board/Swinfen/28 January 1999; Post-Sentence Report/Swinfen/5 October 1998). Chislett himself has described how he has always had friends (and co-defendants) who were significantly older than himself. Chislett has acknowledged that one of the prime factors in his offending behaviour has been his former use and abuse of illicit drugs and alcohol and has also admitted the extent to which he was influenced, or was unable to withstand, the "malign influence" of older and more experienced offenders. (Interim F75 Review/Probation Officer- Throughcare/Swinfen/27 October 2000).
15. Chislett accepts the principal of joint responsibility and accepts that if they had not burgled the victim’s home then the victim would still be alive. He also has now some insight as to the consequences of his crime for the victims. However, he has consistently held to his version of events, namely, that he was not the person who stabbed the victim. (F75 Report/Probation Officer/Swinfen/18 October 2000).
16. Chislett receives good support from his family, receiving visits from his parents and grandparents. He reports that he has no contact with former friends with whom he offended. (LSP 3B – Annual Review/HMP Bristol/10 April 2002).
17. I have read the representations made by Mr and Mrs Williams, the parents of the victim. I have also read the representations made by Melanie Hicks, the victim’s then fiancée and by Mr Lee Williams, the victim’s brother. Finally, I have read the representations made by Julia (nee Williams and since married), the victim’s sister. They are deeply moving. Each member of the family has been traumatised by the murder and are suffering and will continue to suffer in consequence of the crime.
18. I have also read the representations made by Chislett.
19. In view of the progress which Chislett has made I recommend a minimum term of 14 years, which is the lower figure in the recommendation of the then Lord Chief Justice.