Cymraeg | Access Keys | Site Map | Feedback
Legal / Professional
Advanced search

Minimum terms

High Court setting of minimum terms for mandatory life sentences under the Criminal Justice Act 2003

<< Back


Case No:  MTS / 388 / 2004
Neutral Citation Number:  [2006] EWHC 3258   (QB)

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Thursday 21 December  2006








      Ronald WARD                      Defendant

The Honourable Mr Justice Penry Davey:
1. Ronald Ward (the applicant) was born on 17 January 1954 and is now 52 years old. On 12 April 2002 he was convicted by a jury of murder committed on 14 September 2001.
2. I sentenced him to life imprisonment and recommended a minimum term of 12 years, with which the Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf agreed. The applicant is an “existing prisoner” within the meaning of Schedule 22 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003, and no minimum term has been set by the Home Secretary. It now falls to me to determine pursuant to section 269 of that Act the minimum period which he should now serve before the early release provisions apply to him.
3. The victim Lonergan was a 59 year old alcoholic, staying at the time at the applicant’s flat in Manchester. On 14 September 2001 the victim was beaten to death over a period of several hours. The applicant, a co-defendant called Joanne Storey and others (all alcoholics) were in the flat having a drinking session during the day. The atmosphere was initially light hearted but changed when Joanne Storey suggested (knowing well that Lonergan had not been involved) that he was responsible for an unconnected incident in respect of which she had been charged (but of which she was subsequently acquitted). There was evidence that she slapped Lonergan on the face and struck him (not hard) on the arm with a small baseball bat. Her boyfriend, a man called Elson (who died before the trial) then attacked Lonergan on several occasions over a period of hours punching, kicking and stamping on him. Lonergan sustained extensive bruising over his head, chest, arms and legs, with a total of 21 rib fractures and a fracture of the breast bone; the fractures would have required severe force. There was evidence from one of the alcoholics present that this applicant had kicked Lonergan; the applicant said in evidence that he had slapped Lonergan for breaking the glass in a picture frame, but in cross examination he admitted that he had joined in a murderous attack on Lonergan and when asked whether he realised what he was saying, said he was admitting the offence of murder. It was clear on the evidence that the prosecution accepted that most of the violence had come from Elson, but the case that the jury clearly accepted by their verdict was that this applicant and Storey were involved in the joint murderous attack on Lonergan. I pointed out in my report  to the Home Secretary that the violence by this applicant himself was limited.
4. No representations have been made by the victim’s family.
5. The following representations are made on behalf of the applicant:
a) Storey was the instigator of the attack;
b) this applicant had no knowledge of or involvement in the earlier matter which was the reason for this attack;
c) the applicant’s participation was limited;
d) Elson was responsible for the majority of and the most severe violence against the victim.
e) The applicant admitted joining in the assault during cross examination but was not cross examined as to the extent to his involvement.
6. It is further suggested that the applicant is a long term alcoholic with an antecedent history reflecting his addiction, and the offence was committed during a day of hard drinking with fellow alcoholics. He does not have extensive or serious violence in his background. It is submitted on behalf of the applicant that the recommendation of 12 years appears to follow the observations of the Court of Appeal in R v Flemming 57 Cr App R 524 to the effect that no recommendation should be for less than 12 years. I did not approach this case on the basis that I could not make any recommendation of a minimum period of less  than 12 years.
7. Under the terms of section 269 of and Schedule 21 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 the starting point for an offence of this kind would be 15 years. However, I have to have regard to the recommendation I made and the view of the Lord Chief Justice and the term now fixed must not be greater than in the opinion of the court the Home Secretary would have been likely to set under his pre-December 2002 practice.
8. Having reviewed the case I believe the Home Secretary would have accepted the recommendation of the Lord Chief Justice and set the minimum period at 12 years.
9. In considering the appropriate term, I have taken into account the representations made on behalf of the applicant and the medical reports accompanying the letter of 11 April 2005 from Richard Silver solicitors to the Life Imprisonment Minimum Term Section. In my judgment the appropriate minimum term in accordance with Schedule 22 paragraph 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 is 12 years less the 6 months and 24 days the applicant spent in custody in respect of the proceedings before conviction. Accordingly, I order that the provisions of section 28 (5) to (8) of the Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 (the release provisions) are to apply to the applicant when he has served 11 years 5 months and 6 days.

^ Top
This page was last updated on 24 November 2006 11:58. Web team.
Contact us . Terms and conditions .