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Minimum terms

High Court setting of minimum terms for mandatory life sentences under the Criminal Justice Act 2003

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Neutral Citation Number:[2008] EWHC 1038   (QB)

Case No: 2006/10 / MTR

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 23rd May, 2008


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I direct that no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic







1 This is an application made pursuant to Schedule 22 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 for review of the minimum term of imprisonment of the applicant, Allan Michael Grimson.  I have considered written representations dated 25th February 2008 submitted by Michael Purdon, solicitors for the applicant.

2 The offences for which the applicant came to be sentenced to life imprisonment were committed on or about 11th December 1997 when he murdered Nicholas Wright and about one year later when he murdered Sion Jenkins.  In the case of Nicholas Wright, an aggravating feature of the offence was the breach of trust entailed: the applicant was his victim’s senior officer and instructor in the Royal Navy.  The murder was conducted with extreme violence.  In the case of Sion Jenkins the aggravating features include sexual abuse and subjection of his victim to a prolonged ordeal entailing the deliberate infliction of terror.

3 The trial judge, the Honourable Mrs Justice Cresswell, indicated that the period of years to be served in custody, necessary to meet the requirements of retribution and general deterrence, was twenty-two years.  The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf agreed.  By decision reported to the applicant on 23rd October 2001, the Home Secretary decided to set the tariff at twenty-five years. Michael Purdon applies for an oral hearing of the present application and submits that the appropriate minimum term (on the date of the submission) was 16 years and 262 days.

4 In support of the application for an oral hearing Michael Purdon submits that by virtue of Articles 6 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights an oral hearing is required as a matter of principle; and in the alternative that this is san exceptional case warranting an oral hearing because the applicant wishes to make representations as to the Practice Direction of 10th February 1997 and case of R v Sullivan and Others, [2004] EWCA Crim 1762.

5 As for the application of the oral hearing, the principle to be applied pursuant to the European Convention is set out in the speech of  Lord Bingham in R (on the application of Hammond) (FC) (Respondent) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department (Appellant) [2005] UKHL 69. He stated at paragraph 13: “an oral hearing should, where fairness requires it, be held before a minimum term is set for an existing prisoner.” It is in exceptional cases that fairness requires an oral hearing, over and beyond the oral hearing at the trial.  See R (Hammond) v Home Secretary, [2004] EWHC 1753, para 30.  This is not one of the exceptional cases contemplated in Hammond.  The applicant’s representatives had an opportunity to make submissions on the Practice Statement of 10th February 1997 at the oral hearing before Mr Justice Cresswell, J.  Although Sullivan and Others had not been decided on the date of that hearing, Michael Purdon has now made written representations about that well-known case, of which I can now take account.

6 As for the length of the sentence, the aggravating features are that the applicant has to be sentenced for two murders committed about one year apart; that both murders involved the killing of vulnerable young men; that the first entailed a gross breach of trust and the second was a premeditated, planned killing which entailed the terrorising of the victim; that both murders were committed with extreme violence; that both murders involved sexual abuse; and that in both cases the bodies were concealed (and the first was not discovered until two years after the offence).

7 The mitigating factors are your plea of guilty; your personality disorder; your and in the case of the murder of Nicholas Wright, the absence of an intention to kill.

8 As this catalogue demonstrates, these murders were exceptionally serious, even when compared to other murders involving sexual or sadistic conduct.  The minimum term set by the trial judge and endorsed by the Lord Chief Justice was eminently justified. Accordingly I agree that the minimum period to be applied to the applicant’s sentence, for the purposes of retribution and general deterrence, should be twenty-two years.  In accordance with section 67 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 the applicant is entitled to an allowance to reflect the time that he spent in prison on remand.  Accordingly the minimum term will be reduced by a number of days equal to the number that the applicant spent on remand before sentence.  It is only on the expiry of the period so calculated that consideration will be given to any question of his release; and it is at that time that account must be taken of the concerns for public safety that are raised by the applicant’s offences and personality disorder.

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