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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 1610 (QB)

Case No: 2006/38/MTR

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 31/07/2008

Before :

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Between :

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 Graham Charles Sate 

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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.



Mr Justice Mackay:
1. The defendant is an existing prisoner who was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a five year old child Lauren Creed.  The trial judge in a very full report to the Home Secretary explained how the child’s mother, with whom the defendant was in a relationship, had entrusted him with the care of the child when she was at work, albeit she was aware that he had been convicted of attempted murder on 30 July 1993 when aged 19, and had been released on licence from his seven year sentence in December 1996.
2. There was evidence that Lauren was beaten and seen to be bruised from as early as July 1997, though the  mother refused to support a complaint about the defendant.  The trial judge found that the defendant continued to assault Lauren over a period of approximately four months.
3. On 21 October the defendant telephoned the mother at work claiming the child had fallen down the stairs.  Lauren died that morning from a lacerated liver and was reported as having 167 bruises and abrasions on her body.  The evidence was that these were recent and inconsistent with a fall down stairs.
4. The trial judge found that the attack on Lauren was caused by sustained banging and thumping for approximately 30 minutes.  He held that there was a sustained and uncontrollable character to the assaults on Lauren which involved finger bruising all over her body likely to have been caused by prodding with his fingers.  The lacerated liver was likely to have been caused by either a kick or punch to the stomach.  The defendant displayed no remorse and blamed the mother for Lauren’s death.
5. In addition to the conviction for attempted murder set out above the defendant had been convicted of grievous bodily harm on 20 February 1995 when in prison and sentenced to 15months.
6. The trial judge’s recommendation for the minimum period necessary for the purposes of punishment and deterrence was 25 years.  The Lord Chief Justice of the day agreed this was a very serious case and that a minimum term of 20-22 years was called for.
7. There has been no request for an oral hearing in this case and I am satisfied that it appropriate to be dealt with on the written representations made on behalf of the defendant.
8. Those representations in their essence are that :-
i) The offence although committed against a young defenceless child did not involved gratuitous sadism
ii) The circumstances in which the defendant found himself at the time were such that he was ill equipped to deal with them due to his emotional deficits.
9. As to the first of these two points, that is no doubt founded on the submission that the violence inflicted by the defendant on the child was limited to throwing her onto a bed and then punching her two times in the abdomen.  That is inconsistent with the trial judge’s view of the evidence.  Whether the sustained assault that he found had occurred could be categorised as “sadistic conduct” is in my view open to argument.  While there is material in the prison report which support the defendants propensity to violence and therefore his enjoyment of it in my judgement on balance it would be wrong to categorise this murder as one which under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 regime which would have attracted a 30 year starting point for the determination of the minimum term.
10. The solicitor’s representations suggest that the appropriate minimum term in this case was 20 years.  I have to consider the aggravating and mitigating factors referred to in schedule 21 of the 2003 Act.  As to the former the victim was particularly vulnerable because of her age, there was physical suffering inflicted on her in the 30 minutes before death as well as for some months prior to that, and there was the plainest abuse of trust.
11. As to mitigating factors I would accept that there was probably not an intention to kill and there was a lack of premeditation.  I do not accept that there was any mental disorder or mental disability lowering the defendant’s degree of culpability. He had ample opportunity over the preceding months to have told the mother that he was not able to cope with the task of looking after Lauren.  Rather than do so he coerced her into protecting him from the consequence of the beatings that he was administering.
12.  In my judgement this was a case which, while it would have attracted a starting point of 15 years under the 2003 Act regime, would have called for a minimum term significantly higher than that and higher than the figure suggested in the written representations.  In my judgement 22 years was entirely appropriate.
13. I therefore direct that the early release provisions shall apply to this life sentence but that the defendant should not be considered for parole until he has served a minimum period of 22 years for the purposes of punishment and deterrence.  From that figure shall be deducted the  13 months 16 days spent in custody on remand.

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