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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 271 (QB)

Case No: 2006/47/MTR

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 29/02/2008

Before :

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Approved Judgment

I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A para 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.



Mrs. Justice Cox DBE :
1. The early release provisions are to apply to this Applicant as soon as he has served a term of 13 years’ imprisonment minus seven months and five days, namely the period spent in custody on remand before conviction and sentence.

2. On 30th June 1997 at the Birmingham Crown Court, before the Recorder of Birmingham and a jury, Carlos Hartland (the Applicant) whose date of birth is the 16th June 1973, was unanimously convicted of the murder of Marilyn Miller on 23rd November 1996.  He was sentenced on the following day to life imprisonment.
3. On 11th July 2007 the Recorder recommended to the Home Secretary that the actual length of detention necessary to meet the requirements of retribution and general deterrence for this offence was 14 years.  On 18th July 2007 the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham CJ, recommended a term of 13-14 years’ imprisonment.  Subsequently, on 15th October 1999, the Home Secretary set the minimum term to be served at 14 years and notified the Applicant accordingly.  He has now applied to the High Court for a review of the minimum term notified.
4. Written representations on the Applicant’s behalf, together with two psychiatric reports and a number of other reports and letters, were submitted to the Home Secretary in August 1999 before he set the minimum term.  The Applicant has now submitted written representations in support of his application for a review of that term.  He does not request an oral hearing.  There is no victim impact statement but I note that one of the documents submitted on the Applicant’s behalf in 1999 was a letter from Arthur Miller, the victim’s uncle.
5. I have considered carefully both the previous and the more recent, written representations, together with the reports and other documents attached.  I have had regard in addition to the report of the trial judge.  I have had regard, in assessing the seriousness of this offence, to the general principles in Schedule 21 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003; and I have had regard to the effect of credit for the time spent in custody on remand.  Pursuant to Schedule 22(3)(1)(a) of the Act the minimum term set on review cannot be more than the term notified.
6. The relevant facts are these.  The Applicant met Marilyn Miller in December 1995 when she was 16 and he was 22.  They began a relationship and started living together.  In March 1996 she became pregnant with their child.  In September 1996 they moved into a council flat in Birmingham near to the flat where another man, Warren Francis, was the tenant.  The three of them became friends and the Applicant and Ms. Miller spent much time in his flat, which was equipped with more comfortable furniture than they could afford.  Ms. Miller became very friendly with Mr. Francis and the relationship between the Applicant and Ms. Miller began to deteriorate.  On the Monday of the week of the murder she told the Applicant that she wished him to leave the flat.  He agreed to go later on during the week but delayed his departure until the Saturday, when he was to receive his benefits.
7. On Friday 23rd November she allowed him to sleep in her bed.  However, she refused to kiss him goodnight and turned away from him.  The Applicant lost his temper and strangled her with his bare hands.  He then moved away and got a Stanley knife blade, with which he slashed her throat at least four times.  He then went and fetched a tie and strangled her with that.  Her death was caused by strangulation, either by the hands, or tie, or both.  The knife wounds would not have been fatal.  The Applicant then cleaned up her body and changed her blouse.  Afterwards he went to the police.  He claimed that he did not realise what he had done until he saw blood on his hands.  The victim was 36 weeks pregnant at the time of her death.
8. The questions of whether the Applicant was provoked and whether he had intended to kill or seriously harm Ms. Miller were left to the jury, there being some evidence indicating that both of them were fragile personalities and that the Applicant killed her only when his mind snapped under the huge weight of the domestic situation; and that her rejection of him that night, against a background of her developing friendship with Mr. Francis, could amount to provocation.  However, having heard all the evidence, the jury unanimously convicted him of murder.
9. It appears that, as at the date of sentence, those representing the Applicant were in possession of the psychiatric reports from Dr. Stanley (3/4/97) and Dr Bond (14/4/97) but neither of them was placed before the Recorder.
10. The Recorder, in his report to the Home Secretary made the following observations at paragraphs 9 and 10:
“The Defendant had previous convictions for violence, although not sentenced to custody.  At the time of the murder he was on probation for common assault and assault on the police.  It was a condition of that order that the Defendant should attend an Anger Management Group – but his condition was subsequently removed because of the difficulty of getting him to comply with it!  He had previously (in April 1996) assaulted the victim.  She complained to the police, but then went back to him.
“In my view this is a dangerous man.  This was a violent explosion of blind rage.  His psychiatric condition will require careful investigation before release.”

“In the light of the guidance given in the Lord Chief Justice’s letter to judges of 10th February 1997 my view is that 14 years should be the period to be served by way of the punitive term to meet the requirements of retribution and deterrence.  There was no provocation in any meaningful (even non-technical) sense.  The three separate attacks on the victim must have taken a significant period of time.  On the other hand there was no premeditation: this was a sudden explosion of rage.  It seems to me therefore that this is a case for the application of the normal or unexceptional period.”

11. Dr Stanley concluded that the Applicant had a serious personality disorder but that it was not such as to diminish substantially his responsibility for the offence.  Dr Bond described the Applicant’s personality disorder as severe, with features of emotional instability.  He too was not satisfied that there was substantial impairment of mental responsibility.  Both doctors recommended further psychiatric and psychological assessment in prison and it is unfortunate that the detailed description of the Applicant’s background and difficulties set out in both these reports was not before the Recorder, who rightly referred to the Applicant as having a “fragile personality”.
12. The reports prepared subsequently in 1999 indicate that the Applicant has demonstrated good progress in prison and, significantly, genuine and deep remorse for the loss of his partner and his unborn child.
13. In my judgment the case does not fall within either paragraph 4 (1) or 5 (1) of Schedule 21 to the 2003 Act.  Thus the starting point, if the Applicant had been convicted after 18th December 2003, would be 15 years.
14. None of the statutory aggravating features applies here, though the Recorder rightly emphasised that there were in effect three separate attacks in this case.  The murder also caused the death of the unborn child.  In mitigation however, there was no element of premeditation and the Applicant suffered at the time from a personality disorder which, whist not amounting to diminished responsibility, lowered the degree of his culpability.  His young age at the time would also be a relevant factor.
15. Having regard to all these matters I am satisfied that, under the present sentencing structure, the Applicant would have received a minimum term of 13 years.
16. In my judgment and having regard in particular to the psychiatric reports, a minimum term of 13 years is appropriate here and I therefore grant the application to that extent.  I shall also order that the period spent in custody on remand before conviction and sentence should be subtracted from that term in order to give the minimum term which must be served by this Applicant before the early release provisions apply.
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