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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: [2006] EWHC 1863 (QB)

Case No: 2004/2/MTS
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
QUEENS BENCH DIVISION
Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 21/07/2006

Before :

MR JUSTICE SILBER
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Between :


R

v

James Connors

 

 

 

 

Approved Judgment

 

 

 

 

IN THE MATTER OF JAMES CONNORS

 

JUDGMENT

 
I. Introduction
1. James Connors was convicted of the murder of Hans Jones at the Crown Court in Bristol on 6 July 2000.He was sentenced to life imprisonment and the trial Judge (Ian Kennedy J) recommended that he should not be released on licence until he had served a period of ten years. Lord Woolf CJ set the tariff at 11 to 12 years explaining that he found this to be a   difficult case. The Secretary of State has not fixed a tariff.
II. The facts.
2.  On 26 January 2000 after an incident at a “bed and breakfast” hostel run by Hans Jones, the mother of the applicant was ejected from the hostel and she was put out on the street. When she was there, she was continued to be abusive while kicking out at the door and the gate of the premises. Hans Jones went to the door of the property where he warned the applicant’s mother that he would call the police if she did not desist. The response of the applicant’s mother was to pick up the wrought iron gate and she threw it at Hans Jones, who was not hurt.

3. As Hans Jones sought to replace the gate, “a tug of war” ensued over the gate between him and the mother of the applicant. Until this point, the applicant had played no part in the incident and his only role had been one of  trying to pacify his mother. He then said something to the effect of “don’t talk to a woman like that” and he then stabbed Hans Jones twice to the neck with a vegetable knife. The first blow missed but the second blow was delivered with such force that it severed the blood vessels in the neck of Hans Jones and his death followed in a few minutes.
4. No submissions had been made on behalf of the applicant but Erica Clemmins the partner of Hans Jones has made an impact statement, the contents of   which I will take into account. There has been no request for an oral hearing and I do not consider one to be appropriate.
III. The Approach of the Trial Judge and the Lord Chief Justice.
5. In his report to the Home Secretary, the trial judge wrote:
“The mother had been an alcoholic from at least her 30s. There was the marital history to be expected in such case. The son was in care until 1998, and I have no reason to disbelieve what his counsel said… In more recent years he had lived with his mother to whom he was devoted. Clearly she was so drink-sodden that she would not normally be aware of where she was leading her son.
 The evidence of their friends, which again there is no reason to doubt, is that the son was very protective, almost fiercely protective, of his mother. Seeing her involved in this incident he took her part. The violence was of her making: she was in no physical danger. Probation records, however, mention a tendency in the son to violence when in drink.
 I find this a difficult case. On the one side, youth, a recent upbringing which would have negated any success  the care authorities may otherwise have had and a spontaneous, unthinking reaction by this defendant to seeing his mother in difficulties. On the other a man of mature years, well spoken of by his residents, responding moderately and peaceably to grossly offensive behaviour by the mother, and then killed on his own ground. I am not persuaded that something could not have yet be made of this defendant: 10 years”
6.  Lord Woolf LCJ wrote that:
“I like the trial judge find this a difficult case .Reluctantly, I have come to the conclusion 10 years would be out of line, I would place the tariff at 11 to 12 years”.
 
IV. Discussion
7. Applying the appropriate principles, I consider that the appropriate starting point should have been a period of 14 years. There are no particular aggravating features. The only mitigating factor was that there was a lack of premeditation as it seems clear that this was a spontaneous attack albeit one which was both viscous and unprovoked
8. I have come to the conclusion that the appropriate period to fix would be 12 years. The applicant is entitled to credit of 5 months and 5 days spent in custody and thus the period to be served will be 11 years and 207 days from the date of his conviction. 
 

 


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