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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 1099 (QB)

Case No: 2004/184/MTS
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 25/05/2006

Before:

THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE OPENSHAW
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Between:

 Regina Prosecution
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 Andrew Thomas MURRAY Defendant

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Hearing dates: 11th - 22nd February 2002
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Approved Judgment

Minimum Term Set

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The Honourable Mr. Justice OPENSHAW:
 
1. On the 22 February 2002, following his conviction for murder before Sir Richard Tucker, sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court, after a trial at the Crown Court at Northampton, Andrew Thomas Murray was sentenced to the mandatory term of life imprisonment. Following the practice of the time, the judge recommended that he serve 14 years before being considered for release by the Parole Board. In due course, that recommendation was endorsed by Lord Woolf CJ. However, before the Secretary of State notified him of the minimum term which he must serve, the process became subject to the new regime introduced by section 269 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.  He is now an ‘existing prisoner’ within the meaning of Schedule 22 of the Act; the Secretary of State has referred the matter to the High Court under paragraph 6 of that schedule for the minimum term to be set, pursuant to section 28(5) of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997.
2. I have read the Victim Personal Statement made by the victim’s mother Teena Marr, in which see describes the impact of the offences upon her and her family.
3. I have also read the detailed representations made by Ms Venetia Bombas, on behalf of the defendant.
4. He has not sought an oral hearing.
5. The facts as found by the judge were these. Lorna Slaney was aged 33; she had had an intermittent sexual relationship with the defendant over a number of years. They had however separated and she had a new boyfriend. On the 22 April 2001, the defendant and another man (Carl Stokes, who was convicted only of false imprisonment) unlawfully took her in his taxi to his house. He there tied her to a bed and strangled her, either during or just after having had sexual intercourse with her.
6. The defendant contested the trial, alleging that death had resulted by accident – or at least unintentionally – during consensual sexual bondage and erotic asphyxiation. Plainly, by their verdict, the jury rejected this explanation.
7. Section 276 and Schedule 22 of the Act are intended to ensure that no one being sentenced under this procedure receives a more severe sentence than they would have done if the Secretary of State had made fixed the minimum term at the time. In order to ensure that the minimum term which I fix does not exceed what the Secretary of State would have fixed, I have applied the guidelines in force at the time, which I take to be those given by Lord Bingham CJ in his letter to the judges dated 10 February 1997 (conveniently set out in paragraphs IV.49.18 – 21 of the Practice Direction of 29 July 2004). These set a starting point of 14 years. Of course, I also have had regard to the matters set out in section 269 and in Schedule 21 of the Act. Of course, I also have had regard to the matters set out in section 269 and in Schedule 21 of the Act.
8. The judge found there to be neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances.
9. The defendant still contests the correctness of the verdict. He claims that she went with him by consent to the house and that death occurred accidentally in the course of consensual sex. The jury by their verdict rejected this and he cannot now seek to re-argue the matter.
10. I have read the defendant’s submissions with care but I cannot see anything either in that, or in the three witness statements submitted, which amounts to a real mitigating factor. Accordingly, I entirely agree with the judge’s assessment and I see no reason to adjust the starting point of 14 years. Accordingly, I fix the minimum term at 14 years.
11. I order, as I am required to do, that the term of 14 years is reduced by the period of 9 months and 27 days which he spent in custody before being sentenced. 
12. I am anxious that this sentence is not misunderstood or mis-reported. The sentence is – and remains – a sentence of imprisonment for life. The defendant may not even be considered for release until he has served at least 14 years. That is not to say that he will then be released; indeed he will be detained unless and until the Parole Board is satisfied that he no longer resents a risk to the public. Even if the Parole Board decides then or at some time in the future to authorise his release, he will be upon licence which will extend for the rest of his life. Many prisoners are in fact detained for many years after their tariff has expired

 


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