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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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Case No:  MTS/586/2004
Neutral Citation Number:  [2005] EWHC 2163   (QB)
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION


Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

19th October 2005

Before :

MR JUSTICE ROYCE

Between :

Regina

V

JEFFREY CHARLES GAFOOR
----------------------------------

Judgment
As Approved by the Court

Crown copyright©

 

1. On 4th July 2003 at Cardiff Crown Court the defendant Jeffrey Charles Gafoor pleaded guilty to murder.  He was sentenced to life imprisonment.  It is now necessary to specify the minimum term he must serve before the parole board considers whether or not it would be safe to for him to be released on licence.

2. The deceased was aged 20.  She worked as a prostitute in Cardiff to support her partner’s drug habit.  On 14th February 1988 her body was discovered in her room at 7 James Street.  She had been savagely killed.  Her throat had a massive diagonal cut from the right ear across the front and around the left side beneath the angle of the jaw exposing the bones of the spine.

3. Her breast and chest area had 25 stab wounds.  There were many other wounds to the face, stomach, arms, wrists and left thigh.  The total wounds exceeded 50.  There were defensive wounds to the hands, indicating resistance.

4. On 7th December 1988 five men were arrested for her murder.  They were remanded in custody and tried at Swansea Crown Court between 5th October 1989 and 26th February 1990.  The Judge died before finishing his summing up.  The retrial started on 14th May 1990 and ended on 22nd November 1990.

5. Three men were convicted of murder.  They continued to protest their innocence.  It was not however until 10th December 1992 that the Court of Appeal allowed their appeals against conviction.  They had been in custody for just over 4 years.  The trials which achieved huge publicity in South Wales caused great bitterness amongst the men and their families.

6. In 1999 it was decided that the murder should be re-investigated.  A new team of forensic experts meticulously re-examined the scene.  By scraping off layers of paint from the repainted room they eventually managed to find bloodstains they concluded must have come from the killer.  New DNA techniques enabled a profile to be obtained.

7. There was however no match on the DNA database and it was a hugely difficult task to track down the defendant.  Eventually the field was narrowed and he was seen by the police in February 2003.  It was found that his DNA matched that of the killer.

8. He later said “I did kill Lynette White.  I’ve been waiting for this for 15 years.”  He declined to expand in interview on why he had killed her.

9. It was accepted by prosecution and defence that the men originally convicted had absolutely nothing to do with the murder.


10. His version of events advanced in mitigation was that he gave her £30.00 for sex; he changed his mind; she refused to give the money back; he had a knife with him for protection; they argued; he threatened her and she was stabbed in a struggle; it became a frenzied attack.

11. It was accepted that he was well aware during both trials that innocent men were arrested, kept in custody and in the case of three of them convicted of a murder of which he knew they were innocent.

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12. The defendant had one conviction for unlawful wounding in 1994.  Apart from that there was no history of violence.  The defence had commissioned a psychiatric report which would have dealt with the question of future danger.  They declined to put the report before me.  I have been provided with very moving victim impact statements from the deceased’s family.

13. The guideline case of Sullivan [2005] 1 Cr.App.R (S0 67 makes it clear that the task of determining the minimum term involves a stage by stage approach.

14. The first stage is to assess the starting point under the Criminal Justice Act 2003.  It is necessary to consider the starting points set out in schedule 21.  In my judgment paragraph 6 is applicable and the appropriate starting point would be 15 years.

15. The next stage is to consider the aggravating factors including those set out in paragraph 11.   I regard it as a very serious aggravating factor the fact that he was content to allow innocent men to be arrested, to stand their trial and be convicted of a murder he knew he had committed.  Furthermore it was accepted on his behalf that those men notwithstanding their release by the Court of Appeal had been stigmatised over the ensuing years.  I also regard it as an aggravating factor that the body was hacked so terribly and so frequently.  It verged on the sadistic.  It was also of note that he had taken a knife with him that night, it was said for his own protection.

16. I conclude that these aggravating factors justify an increase from the 15 year starting point to 19 ½  years.

17. Of the mitigating factors set out in paragraph 11 (b) lack of pre-meditation and (g) the age of the offender are of potential relevance.  I accept that this murder was not pre- planned.  However he had gone out, unlawfully, with a knife in part because he said he had been robbed by prostitutes.  He clearly contemplated he might resort to using it in a confrontation with a prostitute.  He was a relatively young man with no previous convictions at the time.  These matters provide some but not much mitigation.

He did plead guilty.  For the reasons set out in the judgment of Lord Woolf C.J. in R v Last and Others [2005] 2 Cr. App. R (S) 64 the maximum discount for a plea of guilty to murder is one sixth if made at first reasonable opportunity.  There had been as far as the court was concerned uncertainty until 4th July as to whether the defendant would indeed plead to murder.  Although he had admitted the killing he had refuse to answer other questions in interview about the circumstances.

18. There is also material now before me confirming that the defendant post-sentence gave some assistance to the police in their investigation of how it came to be that innocent men were convicted of Lynette White’s murder.

19. Taking these factors in to account I would reduce the 19 ½ years to 15 ½ years and then deduct the (almost) 4 month remand period to produce a minimum term figure of 15 years 2 months under the 2003 Act.

20. The minimum term to be specified however may not be greater than that which under the practice followed by the Secretary of State before December 2002, the Secretary of State would have been likely to notify the defendant that he would have to serve before his release on licence.  The next stage accordingly is to consider what that is likely to have been.  For a murder committed before 31st May 2002 the best guide is that set out in the letter from Lord Bingham C.J. on 10th February 1997.  He said:

                 “My current practice is to take 14 years as the period actually to be served for the
                  ‘average’, ‘normal’ or ‘unexceptional ‘murder.  This is longer than the period of 12
                   years which Lord Lane took as his norm ten years ago.  I take this higher norm  
                   because I think the level of sentence, may have in the past , with some reason, have
                   been considered too low; I think the recommended level has risen over the last
                   decade.”

          He set out a number of factors capable of mitigating the normal penalty including youth    
          and a guilty plea. His examples of aggravating factors do not include what I regard as the
          most serious aggravating factor in this case namely allowing innocent men to be convicted
          of  the murder.  That is hardly surprising as it is such an unusual feature.
                                                                          
21. If I took a starting point of 12 years and increased it by 4 ½ tears for aggravating factors I would then reduce it to 13 years to take account of mitigating factors including the plea.  It would then be appropriate to deduct the time spent in custody on remand which is just short of 4 months.  This produces a term of 12 years and 8 months.

22. The final stage is to impose the lower of the two terms arrived at under the 2003 Act and under the Secretary of State’s practice.  Accordingly the minimum term I specify in this case is 12 years 8 months.  I make it clear that this does not mean the defendant will be released after that period.  It means the Parole Board can then consider whether it is safe to release him.  If he is released he will remain on licence.
      
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