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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: [2004] EWHC 3074 (Admin)
Royal Courts of Justice
London WC2

Wednesday, 15th December 2004
B E F O R E:

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Computer-Aided Transcript of the Stenograph Notes of
Smith Bernal Wordwave Limited
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The CLAIMANT did not appear and was not represented
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(As Approved by the Court)
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Crown copyright©

1. MR JUSTICE FORBES:  This is an application for review of the minimum term to be served by this applicant in respect of the sentence of life imprisonment which was imposed upon him on 24th May 1988.  At the date of conviction, the applicant was aged 26.  He was convicted on 12th May 1988 and 24th May 1988 of two offences of murder.  His trial took place at the Central Criminal Court before the Honourable Mr Justice Kenneth Jones.  At the date of conviction the applicant had spent nine months and eleven days in prison on remand.
2. The current tariff in his case has been specified as 20 years and was notified to him on 25th November 1999.  I will come to the circumstances in due course. 
3. The decision which I have reached in his case is that the minimum term should be one of 18 years.  My reasons for reaching that decision are as follows.  This was a case which involved two separate murders.  The interval of time between the two murders was nine months.  The two murders were very similar in nature.  The trial judge, in his report to the Secretary of State, made it quite clear that in each case the applicant had picked upon a feeble victim, had then gone with the victim to the victim's house intending to steal, and then with violence the applicant had immobilised his victim so that the victim would not be able to interfere with the applicant's stealing and subsequent escape.  In each case the victim died as the result of the violence of the applicant's attack upon him, which mainly consisted of kicking.  However, it is important to note that the trial judge drew attention to the fact that the applicant had not used any weapon in the course of his attack upon each victim, and that in each case the applicant was wearing soft shoes at the time.
4. In my judgment, applying the general principles of Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, these offences would now attract a starting point of 30 years because the case falls within paragraphs 5(1) and 5(2)(f) of Schedule 1.  That starting point of 30 years would, in my judgment, be adjusted to 24 years to take account of the main mitigating factors, namely the significant impact of the applicant's childhood experiences and development upon his culpability, as evidenced by the various reports which are referred to in paragraph 8 of the written representations made on his behalf in this matter, and the applicant's lack of an intention to kill when carrying out the attacks.
5. As I have already indicated, the period spent by the applicant in custody on remand was nine months and eleven days.  That would reduce a finite sentence of 24 years to one of 23 years, 2 months and 20 days.  The trial judge and the Lord Chief Justice each recommended a minimum term of 15 years on 26th May 1988 and 5th June 1988 respectively.  However, on 23rd July 1997, nine years after the recommendations given by both the trial judge and Lord Chief Justice, the Secretary of State fixed the applicant's tariff at 20 years.  The applicant then instituted judicial review proceedings to challenge that decision and the Secretary of State agreed to redetermine the tariff.  On 25th November 1999, having received further representations made on the applicant's behalf, the Secretary of State refixed the tariff element at 20 years; the same as before.  That decision was also challenged by the applicant by way of judicial review and the Secretary of State again indicated that he would reconsider the tariff element of the sentence.  However, as I understand it from the papers, the tariff element has not been refixed by the Secretary of State and still remains at 20 years, but subject to further reconsideration by the Secretary of State.
6. I take into account the exceptional progress that this particular applicant has made whilst in prison, as evidenced by the reports which are available to me in the papers.  I also take into account the fact that the tariff notified on 25th November 1999 is subject to further reconsideration by the Secretary of State.  In those circumstances, as it seems to me, the Secretary of State's notified tariff is therefore one which is, to all intents, provisional in nature.
7. In all these circumstances, I have come to the conclusion that the appropriate minimum term in this case should be one of 18 years.  I therefore so order.

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