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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 552 (QB)

Case No: 2004/828/MTS

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

13th June 2006:





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Mr Justice Grigson:
1. This Offender has been convicted of murder and consequently sentenced to imprisonment for life.  The trial judge has made a recommendation as to the minimum term to be served by way of retribution and general deterrence before his case could be considered by the Parole Board.   No final decision has been notified to the Offender.  The purpose of these proceedings is to set the minimum term under the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

2. Under Schedule 22, paragraph 3 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 the Court is required either:

(a) to order that the Early Release Provisions apply to the Applicant and to fix the minimum period that the applicant must serve before his release on licence can be considered by the Parole Board, or

(b) order that the Early Release Provisions should not apply.

This case does not fall within paragraph 3(b).

3. The determination of the minimum term in relation to mandatory life sentences is governed by Schedule 22 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

4. The starting point of a minimum life term is to be decided by the seriousness of the offender’s conduct.

5. There are three categories of seriousness:

(a) Where the offender is over 21 and the seriousness of his conduct is exceptionally high, the starting point is a whole life order.
(b) Where the offender is over 18 and the seriousness is particularly high the starting point is 30 years.
(c) Where the offender is over 18 and the case does not come within (a) or (b) above, the starting point is 15 years.

6. The seriousness of the offender’s conduct is to be determined by the criteria set out in paragraph 4(2). [Exceptionally high cases] and 5(2) [Particularly high cases].  Conduct which does not qualify for either comes into the third category of seriousness.

7. Having chosen the starting point, the Court may either increase the minimum term or reduce the minimum term depending upon whether there are aggravating or mitigating factors (Paragraph 8).  Some of these factors are listed in paragraph 10 (Aggravating) or 11 (Mitigating).

8. Having thus ascertained the minimum term the Court must deduct from it time spent in custody on remand in relation to the index offence.

9. The term fixed must not exceed that likely to have been fixed by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. [Paragraph 8 of Schedule 22]

10. Good conduct whilst in prison is of great importance to the Offender and to those responsible for his progress within the prison system.  It is not one of the factors required to be taken into consideration by statute.  It is suggested that exceptional progress should be recognised by some reduction in the minimum term.

11. Where there is evidence of the effect of the murder upon the victim’s family, the Court has given proper consideration to that material.

In the early hours of the 12th April 2003 there was an argument in a nightclub between the Offender and Andrew Toms, the deceased.  Toms punched the Offender in the mouth.  The Offender went to his home and armed himself with a knife.  He returned to the nightclub and waited outside.  When Toms came out, he and the Offender agreed to go to a ginnel out of view of the CCTV cameras to fight.  Before they reached the ginnel the Offender stabbed Toms once in the heart.  He ran off.

I recommended that the Offender serve 13 years by way of retribution and general deterrence.

Representations have been made by Birchall Blackburn, Solicitors.  They submit that the starting point is 15 years’ imprisonment and that there are no aggravating factors, in particular that there was no significant degree of planning.  They suggest that mitigating factors include a degree of provocation and the offender’s age.  They concede that the offender had a conviction for possession of a bladed article.
Starting Point:
This case comes within the third category of seriousness:  the starting point is 15 years.
Aggravating factors:
In my judgment the premeditation was significant.
Mitigating factors:
I do not regard 23 as being so young as to warrant any significant reduction.  There was a degree of provocation.
Given that the term set under Section 269)2) must not be greater than that likely to have been set by the Secretary of State for the Home Department at the date of sentence, and having in mind the recommendation made at that time, I fix the term at 13 years, less the period spent in custody on remand, namely 7 months and 6 days.


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