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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:[2009] EWHC620 (QB)

Case No: Case No: 2008/8/MTR

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 31/03/2009


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I direct that no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic










Pursuant to Paragraph 3, Schedule 22 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2003.


1. On 12 March 1999, Kenneth Peatfield was convicted at Sheffield             Crown Court before the Honourable Mr Justice Bell of the murder of Susan Craven, committed on 5/6 March 1998. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a recommendation by the trial judge made on 20 March 1999 that he should serve a minimum period of 18 years imprisonment before consideration for early release.  He had served 11 months and 7 days on remand prior to his trial.

2. On 29 March 1999, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, agreed with the trial judge’s recommendation and recommended that the minimum period should be one of 18 years.

3. On 24 November 2000, the Home Secretary notified a minimum term of 18 years.

4. I am now asked to review the minimum term, pursuant to the provisions of paragraph 3 of Schedule 22 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Facts of the Offence

5. The applicant was sentenced in September 1984 to 10 years imprisonment for soliciting to murder. He had paid two men to kill his wife and 10 year old daughter, but the men went to the police. While in prison, the applicant met Alan Craven, a wealthy but illiterate car scrap dealer. On their release in 1990, the applicant started an affair with Craven’s wife Susan. She left Craven to live with the applicant, eventually moving to a house in Burncross, Sheffield in 1992, where they lived until her death. The house was bought with Craven money then extended with the help of a mortgage serviced by the applicant and placed in their joint names. They made mutual wills leaving the residue of their estates to each other.

6. In June or July 1997, the applicant met and started an affair with Faith Warner, a 17 year old girl. He bought her an engagement ring and later that summer she became pregnant by him. The applicant stayed regularly with her at a house in Saddleworth. By early 1998 her feelings for him had cooled. Susan Craven had found out about the relationship and was talking about it to friends. At around that time, the financial disputes arising out of the Cravens’ divorce were settled by a final lump sum payment which she was expecting to receive in April 1998.

7. Susan Craven was not seen by friends or neighbours after 5 March 1998. They were told by the applicant that she had left him. The Crown’s case, which the jury must have accepted was that the applicant had killed Susan Craven on 5 March 1998 or in the early hours of 6 March 1998. On 7 March 1998, he showed Faith Warner a body in an outhouse of the house at Burncross, saying it was Susan. She told no-one. The applicant was arrested and questioned about Susan Craven’s absence, but her blood was found in the house and he was charged with her murder. On 20 April 1998, her head was found in a concrete block in the garage of the house. The rest of her body has never been found.

8. The cause of death was never definitively established but appeared to be either strangulation or an attack with a blunt instrument. In his report to the Home Secretary, the trial judge said that whilst it was possible that the applicant had killed her in a sudden fit of temper, having heard all the evidence, he considered it far more likely that he killed her deliberately in order to make way for Faith Warner, whose affections he hoped to recover with a house and an inheritance from Susan Craven on her death. The trial judge said he was sure that the applicant intended to kill her, as the blood staining evidence from the house showed that the applicant had attacked her, followed her and finished her off.

9. In his report the trial judge said in his comments on the case generally and on the degree of dangerousness presented by the applicant:

“This was a murder with intent to kill, followed by a careful disposal of the victim’s body, over a period when Peatfield continued to court his much younger mistress. About fifteen years earlier, he had tried to have his wife and daughter murdered. He showed no particular emotion during the trial. He lied repeatedly to friends, the police and the jury about events and about his feelings for Faith Warner and Susan Craven. Looking at the matter today, I doubt that it will ever be safe to release him. Although time and the usual enquiries, interviews and examinations during his time in prison may provide more information on how dangerous Peatfield is, the Parole Board and Home Secretary should, in my respectful view, treat anything which Peatfield says about events and his own feelings with great caution.”

10. He recommended a minimum term of 18 years. The Lord Chief Justice agreed with this recommendation and added that he was sure that the trial judge’s closing observation (quoted above) would be heeded. The Home Secretary set the tariff at 18 years.


11. I have received written representations from the applicant’s solicitors, Stephensons, dated 30 April 2008. In summary, these take three points:

(1) That the previous conviction for soliciting murder should not be considered by the Court within the context of the relevant starting point.

(2)  That it was not proved at trial that the motive was to replace Mrs Craven with Miss Warner and that an intention to kill was not established. Accordingly, it was submitted that the starting point should be 15 years.

(3) That the applicant is a ‘red band’ prisoner which is a position of trust within the prison and reflects his good custodial behaviour. He has been unable to undertake a number of offence related courses because he maintains his innocence, but has agreed to assessments for courses and complied with the sentence planning process as much as possible.

(4) That the Court should take account of the time spent on remand in setting the minimum term.

12. The papers in the case were referred to the Crown Prosecution Service to enable the Crown to make representations, in accordance with the Practice Direction in A-G’s Reference No. 38 of 2008 (R v Wilson). Written representations in response to those of the applicant were received from the Crown Prosecution Service dated 24 October 2008. These representations had been drafted by counsel who had been junior counsel for the Crown at the trial. In summary those submissions are:

(1) That whilst the previous conviction for soliciting murder arguably does not put the starting point into a higher category than 15 years (because it was not a conviction for murder), the Court may wish to consider it as an aggravating factor.

(2) The dismemberment and concealment of the body is an aggravating factor.

(3) The trial judge’s view that it was far more likely that the applicant had killed Susan Craven deliberately to make way for Faith Warner whose affections he hoped to recover with a house and an inheritance from Susan Craven’s death showed a financial motive which was also an aggravating feature, arguably indicating a degree of planning or premeditation.

(4) The intention to kill which was found by the trial judge meant that the mitigating factor of an intention merely to cause serious bodily harm was absent.

13. Further Submissions dated 24 November 2008 have been received from the applicant’s solicitors. These make in summary the following points of relevance in response to the Crown’s submissions:

(1) That the previous conviction for soliciting to murder cannot be an aggravating feature in law, either under Lord Bingham’s practice direction or the relevant provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

(2) That the funds used by Susan Craven to purchase her share of the house jointly purchased came from her share of her joint account held with her then husband and the applicant’s share came from his funds. She was murdered shortly before she was due to receive her share of a divorce settlement following proceedings which had gone on for seven years.

(3) That the applicant reiterates that he had not planned on leaving Susan Craven nor had he rented accommodation for Faith Warner. He had told Susan Craven about his short affair with Faith Warner, both when it started and when it finished.

14. These further Submissions make a number of other detailed points about the evidence and state that the applicant maintains his innocence. Whilst those matters might be relevant to any application for leave to appeal against conviction (which so far as the papers before me disclose has not been made), they are of no relevance to the determination of the minimum term which the Court has currently to make.


15. In determining the shortest period the applicant must serve before he may even be considered for release, I have to act in accordance with the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
16. By paragraph 4 (1)(a) of Schedule 22 of the 2003 Act, I must have regard to the seriousness of the offence, and, by paragraph 4(2) of the same Schedule, in considering the seriousness of the offence, I must have regard to the general principles set out in Schedule 21 of the Act and to the recommendations of the trial Judge and the Lord Chief Justice.

17. In addition to the seriousness of the offence, I must have regard to the length of the minimum term notified by the Home Secretary (paragraph 4(1)(c) of Schedule 22).

18. The general principles contained in Schedule 21 are those which indicate starting points relevant to offences of varying degrees of seriousness.  I accept that the circumstances of this offence fall under neither paragraph 4(1) nor paragraph 5(1) of that Schedule. Specifically I accept that the previous conviction for soliciting murder does not fall within paragraph 4(2) (d) of the Schedule. Accordingly, the starting point is a minimum term of 15 years, since the applicant was over the age of 18 at the time he committed the offence. However, that is only the starting point.

19. In my judgment two of the aggravating factors listed in paragraph 10 of Schedule 21 are present in this case. First I am satisfied, on the basis of the trial judge’s assessment in his report, that there was a degree of planning or premeditation in this case. Second, the fact that only the victim’s head was ever found and no other parts of her body were found demonstrates both dismemberment and concealment of the body by the applicant.

20. Furthermore, contrary to the submissions advanced by the applicant, the list of aggravating factors in Schedule 21 is not exclusive. This is clear from the opening words of paragraph 10: “Aggravating factors…that may be relevant to the offence of murder include…” (my emphasis). Although the previous conviction of the applicant for soliciting murder cannot put the relevant starting point up from 15 years to 30 years, the submission by the applicant that it cannot in law be an aggravating feature is as startling as it is misconceived. Clearly in my judgment the previous conviction can be and is a serious aggravating factor in this case.

21. As for the mitigating factors listed in paragraph 11 of Schedule 21, in my judgment none of those is present in the present case. In particular, the trial judge’s conclusion that there was an intention to kill was one he was entitled to reach on his assessment of the evidence in the case. Accordingly the mitigating factor of only an intention to cause serious bodily harm is absent here. The other mitigating factors are also absent. In reality, little if anything can be said in mitigation of this offence.

22. As for the applicant’s progress in prison, in Cole and Others v. The Secretary of State for the Home Department [2003] EWHC 1789 Admin, the Vice-President, Rose L.J. said that in his opinion it was inconceivable that “exceptional progress” by a prisoner following conviction should not be taken into account in setting a minimum term. He did not himself define that which made progress in prison exceptional, as distinct from that which was reasonably to be hoped for, but cited without apparent criticism a passage from an affidavit in front of him which read:

“In broad terms the Home Secretary would look for an exemplary work and disciplinary record in prison, genuine remorse, and successful engagement in work (including offence-related courses) that has resulted in substantial reduction in areas of risk. All these would have to have been sustained over a lengthy period and in at least two different prisons. To reach the threshold of exceptional progress there would also need to be some extra element to show that the lifer had done good works for the benefit of others. Examples would be acting as a Listener (helping vulnerable prisoners), helping disabled people use prison facilities, raising money for charities, and helping to deter young people from crime. Again there would need to be evidence of sustained involvement in at least two prisons over a lengthy period”

23. Accordingly I take the view that whilst progress in prison is relevant, I should adopt a restrictive approach in assessing the extent to which, if at all, it is such as to justify a reduction in the minimum term. In the present case, although the applicant has a position of trust and seems to have made good progress in prison, it could not even begin to be described as “exceptional” so as justify a reduction in the minimum term.

24. Had I been passing sentence on this applicant after the coming into force of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 in December 2003, given the aggravating features I have identified and the absence of any mitigating factors which can legitimately be relied upon, I would in all probability have set the minimum term at a higher level than the starting point of 15 years, in all probability at about 20 years. However, under paragraph 3 (1) (a) of Schedule 22 the minimum term which I set must not be greater than that notified by the Home Secretary, so that the minimum term I set cannot be greater than 18 years.


25. This offence involved the murder, either by strangling or by attack with a sharp instrument, of a defenceless woman and the subsequent dismemberment concealment of her body. The offence was committed by a man with a previous conviction for soliciting the murder of his own wife and daughter. In all the circumstances, I can see no good reason to reduce the minimum term below that already notified of 18 years, subject only to the issue of time on remand.


Time served on remand

26. The applicant spent 11 months and 7 days on remand prior to his sentence.  Under paragraph 4(1) (b) of Schedule 22, I must also have regard to the effect that section 67 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 would have had if the applicant had been sentenced to a term of imprisonment, provided that I am satisfied that, if he had been so sentenced, the length of his sentence would have been treated as reduced by a particular period under that section. Accordingly, the court takes account of any period that the applicant has spent in custody solely because he was committed to custody by an order of the court made in connection with proceedings relating to the murder. I am satisfied that in the present case I should have regard to the period spent on remand of 11 months and 7 days, which should count towards satisfaction of the applicant’s minimum term. 


27. Subject to one qualification, I see no reason for any reduction in the tariff notified by the Secretary of State of 18 years.  The qualification is that the 11 months and 7 days on remand must be deducted, reducing the period of 18 years to 17 years and 23 days. 






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