Cymraeg | Access Keys | Site Map | Feedback
Legal / Professional
Advanced search

Minimum terms

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

<< Back



Neutral Citation Number: [2006] EWHC 1434 (QB)
Case No: 2004/352/MTS

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 22nd June 2006


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Application by PAUL JAMES BRYAN for the setting of a minimum term pursuant to Schedule 22, paragraph 3, of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A paragraph 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this decision and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic
The Hon Mr Justice Henriques

I am required to set the minimum term of imprisonment to be served in respect of two Life Sentences pursuant to Schedule 22 paragraph 3 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. 

Paul James Bryan was convicted of the murders of David Nelson and Joseph Montgomery on the 13th of May 2002 and sentenced by me to Life Imprisonment.  He was also convicted of the attempted murder of Andrew Nelson and sentenced to Life Imprisonment with a specified period of 10 years.  In relation to the two murder convictions I recommended to the Home Secretary that he should serve a minimum of 25 years.  The Lord Chief Justice commented ‘whilst not saying that 25 years would be wrong my figure is 23/24 years’.

I have now had the opportunity of reading a victim family statement on behalf of the Montgomery family and representations made in writing by Michael Purdon solicitor.  These representations are very full and nothing would be gained by an oral hearing.

I wrote at paragraph 6 of the Life Sentence Proforma:

‘On Sunday the 22nd of July the defendant entered a public house in Leeds wearing a balaclava and carrying a .38 revolver.  He had gone there to shoot David Nelson.  An earlier attempt on the 19th of July to shoot David Nelson had failed; the bullet grazing his head (the defendant played no part in this earlier shooting).  It appears that this was a contract killing.  The most likely motive was that David Nelson had defaulted on a substantial loan.  He was addicted to gambling.  The defendant shot David Nelson.  Andrew Nelson tried to intervene on his brother’s behalf.  The defendant shot at him but missed.  As the defendant was leaving the public house, Joseph Montgomery threw a pint pot at the defendant.  It missed him and the defendant shot Montgomery dead from close range.  The defendant knew both of the deceased and had played pool regularly with them.  The defendant was on the run for 2 weeks.  Upon his arrest he was most uncooperative, screaming and smashing audio equipment when interviewed.  He refused to have samples taken for DNA profiling, struggling and fighting with police officers.   Witnesses were threatened during the trial and the defendant maintained denials throughout the trial.  I formed the view he was a very dangerous man.  He has extensive criminal links.  Psychiatric reports had been obtained by the defence but were not produced to the Court.’

The date of the killings was the 22nd of July 2000.  The relevant direction is contained in Lord Bingham’s CJ’s letter to Judges dated 10th February 1997.  He takes 14 years as the minimum term for the ‘average’ ‘normal’ or ‘unexceptional’ murder.  He identified a 30 year term as something which would be ‘very rare indeed’.

Lord Bingham’s letter reads thus at P.22: (dealing with possible mitigating factors)



1. Youth.

2. Age (where relevant to physical capacity on release or the likelihood of the defendant dying in prison).

3. Sub-normality or mental abnormality.

4. Provocation (in a non-technical sense), or an excessive response to a personal threat.

5. The absence of an intention to kill.

6. Spontaneity and lack of premeditation (beyond that necessary to constitute the offence e.g. a sudden response to family pressure or to prolonged and eventually insupportable stress).

7. Mercy killing.

8. A plea of guilty, or hard evidence or remorse or contrition.

Without again seeking to be comprehensive, I would list the following factors as likely to call for a sentence more severe than the norm:

1. Evidence of a planned, professional, revenge or contract killing.

2. The killing of a child or of a very old or otherwise vulnerable victim.

3. Evidence of sadism, gratuitous violence, or sexual maltreatment, humiliation, or degradation before the killing.

4. Killing for gain (in the course of burglary, robbery, blackmail, insurance fraud, etc).

5. Multiple killings.

6. The killing of a witness or potential witness to defeat the ends of justice.

7. The killing of those doing their public duty (policemen, prison officers, postmasters, fireman, judges, etc).

8. Terrorist or politically motivated killings.

9. The use of firearms or other dangerous weapons, whether carried for defensive or offensive reasons.

10. A substantial record of serious violence.

11. Macabre attempts to dismember or conceal the body.’

The following factors were present as numerated in Lord Bingham’s letter.

1. Evidence of a planned professional revenge or contract killing.

5. Multiple Killings.

6. The killing of a witness or potential witness to defeat the ends of justice.

7. The use of firearms.

It is submitted that there was no intention to kill Mr Montgomery.  I reject that submission.  He shot him dead from close range.  The Jury was satisfied that he intended to kill Andrew Nelson.  Whilst the killing of Mr Montgomery was spontaneous the killing of David Nelson was planned and premeditated.  I do not accept that the fact that Mr Bryan is a diagnosed schizophrenic is a factor which reduces his degree of culpability.  It renders him the more dangerous and in any event the Defence chose not to submit before me any psychiatric or medical evidence.

The submission made by Mr Purdon that the balance between the aggravating and mitigating factors is neutral is wholly unrealistic and in any event out of accord with his submissions in paragraphs 33-36.

I observe that the psychiatric report available to the Defence is still not relied upon or disclosed on behalf of the defendant not withstanding the submission that the contents mitigate the gravity of these offences.  I note also that Gerald Roney, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist at HMP Full Sutton writes ‘This man appears to have a significant psychiatric history.  Unfortunately I have limited information available in records to be confident I know all about him’.  It is apparent that the report available to his legal advisors has not been made available to the prison authorities.

Out of deference and respect for the then Lord Chief Justice I am minded to set the minimum term at 24 years less 290 days (time spent on remand).  I reject the submission that good conduct in custody justifies any reduction in the minimum term.  This is a case in which the Parole Board should exercise the very greatest care before contemplating any release.

The Defendant should realise that under present arrangements a minimum term of 30 years would have been appropriate, a factor which I have wholly disregarded in setting the minimum term.

^ Top
This page was last updated on 24 November 2006 11:58. Web team.
Contact us . Terms and conditions .