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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: [2005] EWHC 2418 (QB)
  Case No: 2004/603/MTS


Date: 09/12/2005



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Criminal Justice Act, 2003, Schedule 22
 Judge’s Order under Section 269






McKinnon, J :
1. I am required by Section 269 (3) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to set such minimum term as I consider appropriate taking into account the seriousness of the offence. In arriving at that minimum term, there are four steps which I am required to take as the murder here was committed before 18th December 2003.
2. The facts are taken from my sentencing remarks.   The defendant kidnapped and murdered his niece, Danielle Sarah Jones who was only 15 at the time. Her body has never been found.  The defendant clearly had a close relationship with the deceased.  He was regularly in contact with her until 4th June 2001.  He was obviously obsessed by her.   On Monday 18th June 2001 he decided to kidnap her.  She was on her way to school, a little late, with her mobile phone. The defendant desperately wanted to photograph her.  His particular perverse interests were focused upon schoolgirls in the 14 to 15 year old age bracket. The defendant had been a blatant, deceitful and thoroughly dishonest “smooth operator” over many years, oblivious to the effect upon others of his creeping into the affections of under-aged girls.  Having kidnapped his niece, probably on the pretext of taking her to school, he took her to his home.  There he murdered her and somehow disposed of her body without trace.   In order to keep up the pretence that she was still alive, and to buy time for himself, he used her mobile phone to send text messages to his mobile phone within some three to four hours of his kidnapping her and in the early afternoon of the following day.   That was to be his undoing, because the mobile phone network records showed that both his mobile and the deceased’s mobile were close together, in or near his home, for some 30 hours, and that he must have been in control of the deceased’s phone.
3. The first step is to choose one of three starting points, whole life, 30 years or 15 years. In my judgment, it is appropriate to take the starting point of 30 years.   That is because this case falls within the category of an offence, the seriousness of which is particularly high within paragraph 5 (2) of Schedule 21 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003.  I have chosen the starting point of 30 years because this was a murder intended to obstruct or interfere with the course of justice and involving sexual conduct.  It is clear that the defendant’s motive in kidnapping his niece was a sexual one, coupled with the probability that he murdered her in order to silence her either having had a sexual relationship with her or having committed a serious sexual offence upon her.  Further, the defendant has concealed her body in order to interfere with the course of justice.
4. The second step is take account of any aggravating or mitigating factors which would justify a departure from the starting point of 30 years. The aggravating factors are that the victim was particularly vulnerable because of her age, the defendant abused his position of trust, and concealed his victim’s body.  There are no mitigating factors.  It does not seem to me to be right to increase the starting point by reason of the matters I have referred to.  
5. The third step is to deduct from the starting point of 30 years the precise time that the defendant spent on remand in custody.  That is 16 months.   So, in broad terms, (not being entirely precise) I arrive at a proposed minimum term of 28 years.
6. The fourth step is to check whether that proposed term is greater than the term which the Secretary of State would probably have notified under the practice followed by the Secretary of State before December 2002.  Where, as here, the murder was committed before 31st May 2002, the best guide as to what would have been the practice of the Secretary of State is the letter sent to Judges by Lord Bingham, CJ on 10th February 1997. Following the practice of Lord Bingham, I take as the first step the period actually to be served for the “average”, “normal” or “unexceptional” murder as 14 years.  The next and final step is to look at the factors capable of mitigating the normal penalty and the factors likely to call for a sentence more severe than the norm.   Here, the aggravating factors are as set out in paragraph 4 above.  There are no mitigating factors. I would add at least six years for the aggravating factors to arrive at a minimum term of 20 years.
I do not have jurisdiction to increase the minimum term.  Accordingly the minimum term the defendant must serve before the Parole Board can consider his release on licence is one of 20 years.  That minimum term is the minimum amount of time the defendant will spend in prison, from the date of sentence, before the Parole Board can order early release.  If it remains necessary for the protection of the public, the defendant will continue to be detained after that date.  Where the defendant has served the minimum term and the Parole Board has decided to direct release, the defendant will remain on licence for the rest of his life and may be recalled to prison at any time.

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