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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: [2006] EWHC 2859 (QB)

Case No: 2004/786/MTR/2004/1075/MTR/2006/56/MTR

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 23/11/2006

Before :

MR JUSTICE DAVIS
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Between :

 REGINA Crown
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 JAMES GEORGE AKENHEAD
DEREK PAUL LAWSON
BRIAN RAYMOND MOULDING Defendants

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Approved Judgment


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Davis J. :
 
1. The applicants were each convicted of murder on 11th May 1998 after a trial at Newcastle Crown Court.  Lawson was sentenced to custody for life, Moulding and Akenhead to life imprisonment.  The trial Judge’s recommended minimum terms were 13 years for Akenhead, 12 years for Lawson and 14 years for Moulding.  The then Lord Chief Justice made the same recommendation, which was reflected in the terms notified by the Home Secretary.
2. Because of the dates, the provisions of Schedule 22 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 apply.  I have had regard to the provisions of Part IV paragraph 49 of the Consolidated Practice Direction, in particular paragraph 49.14-21.
3. The applicant Moulding has requested an oral hearing.  There is no need for such a hearing, and no exceptional factors are shown to justify such a course.  I can properly decide this matter on the written representations made.  I have also had regard to the views of the victim’s family.
4. All of the applicants had previous convictions, but none for violence, save Akenhead whose record included a conviction for affray.  Lawson was born on 27th July 1979, Moulding on 30th August 1971 and Akenhead on 13th November 1970.
5. The background facts, as found by the trial Judge, are these.  The deceased (a man with a reputation for violence) held a grudge against Moulding in respect of an incident between Moulding and a man called Valentine, who was a friend of the deceased.  On 21st June 1997 the deceased had been drinking to excess.  He went to Moulding’s home in Newcastle (which was near to where he himself lived) and shouted abuse and threats.  Valentine was with the deceased and dragged him away, fearing trouble.  There was evidence from Moulding and another witness (but disputed by Valentine) that the deceased had armed himself with a machete.  Moulding was then joined by Lawson (his partner’s brother) and Akenhead, a friend who lived in the street, was also enlisted.  Lawson armed himself with a heavy piece of window frame,  Akenhead with a heavy dog chain.  Moulding said he was not armed but, according to Lawson, there was a pick axe handle in his car which he took out when they arrived at the deceased’s house (Moulding having driven) and some witnesses spoke of Moulding having a machete and wooden object.  The deceased was called out.  The applicants all said at trial that the deceased a machete:  eyewitnesses said he did not.  At all events, the deceased was rendered unconscious.  Lawson admitted one blow to the head with the window frame (said by the photograph to be a cause of death).  Moulding was said to have been seen to strike the deceased with a piece of wood up to 6 times.  The Crown said that Akenhead struck the deceased with the dog chain and also wounded him in the leg with a machete.  After the deceased had been rendered unconscious and his wife was dragging him to safety, Moulding deliberately drove the car over his legs causing further (albeit non-fatal) injury.  The deceased had 35 injuries to the body, including three fatal injuries to head and brain.
6. In issue at trial was the respective involvement of each applicant and whether there was a joint plan and the requisite intent.  Self-defence and provocation were also raised.
7. The trial Judge’s view (he having heard the evidence given before the Jury) was that Moulding was the most culpable.  Lawson stuck the fatal blow but was of dull intellect and younger than Moulding, who had brought him into the affair.  Akenhead played a lesser part in the violence than Moulding, but was still active in it.  The Judge thought none would pose a threat to the public when eventually released; the Judge thought the character of the deceased was a significant factor in the origins of the violence.
8. On behalf of Akenhead, a rather different version of events to that found by the trial Judge is advanced, indeed he has asserted he did not commit murder.  Emphasis is placed on his remorse and also on his commendable behaviour (evidence by reports) while in prison.  It is said that this, and exceptional circumstances, justify a reduction in his tariff.  On behalf of Moulding emphasis is also placed on his remorse and his progress, said to be exceptional, in prison.  It is further said there was no premeditation and no actual intent to kill.  The same points are likewise made on behalf of Lawson,  with further emphasis on his age at the time (18) – a factor the trial Judge expresses took into account – and the lack of previous convictions for violence.  It is said on behalf of Lawson that a tariff of 12 years (by reference to the then practice) does not sufficiently reflect the mitigation available or the progress while in prison.
9. It is in my view correct that each applicant has significant mitigation available to him, with Lawson having the important further mitigation of his relative youth at the time.  But in my view there are features here which take the case above the “normal” starting point of 14 years:  this was a revenge attack, for which Moulding enlisted Lawson and Akenhead, and was to that extent premeditated.  The three had each (as the Judge found) equipped themselves with a form of weapon.  The deceased was violent but it was three against one and the number of blows struck, and extent of injury caused, indicate the ferocity of the attack:  which occurred, moreover, in a public street outside the deceased’s home.  It seems to me that tariffs of as low as 13 years, 12 years and 14 years are to be explained just by reason of the fullest possible weight being given to the individual mitigation available.  I have also taken into account the excellent conduct and progress of the three in prison, which doubtless also will be carefully considered for parole purposes.  Even so, I can see no justification for departing from the notified tariffs set in each case:  which in my view were and remain appropriate in the circumstances of this case and of these applicants.
10. Accordingly I specify the minimum term having regard to considerations of retribution and deterrence, as follows:
(1) Akenhead:  13 years, from which time spent in custody on
     remand of 10 months 16 days is then to be
     deducted.
(2) Lawson:   12 years, from which time spent in custody on
     remand of 10 months 16 days is then to be
     deducted.
(3) Moulding:  14 years, from which time spent in custody on
     remand of 10 months 16 days is then to be
     deducted.


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