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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 1735 (QB)

Case No: 2004/1006/MTR

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 14th July 2006


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Application by David Anthony SKOOF for the setting of a minimum term pursuant to Schedule 22, paragraph 3, of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
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I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A paragraph 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this decision and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic


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Mr. Justice Holland:
1. David Anthony Skoof is an existing prisoner (see Criminal Justice Act 2003, Schedule 22, paragraph 1) who makes an application to the High Court pursuant to paragraph 3 for an order with respect to the early release provisions.
1. The essential chronology is as follows:
a. 23rd May 1997.  He is convicted of the murder of his wife on the 25th June 1996 and sentenced to life imprisonment.  The trial Judge recommended a minimum term of 14 years.  The then Lord Chief Justice (Lord Bingham) recommended 11 – 12 years.
b. 2nd February 1998.  The Secretary of State notified a 12 year tariff.
3. By paragraph 4 I am now required to have regard to:
a. The seriousness of the offence taking into account the general principles set out in Schedule 21 and the recommendations made to the Secretary of State;
b. The scope accorded by Section 67 Criminal Justice Act 1967 for giving credit for time spent in custody on remand for the offence;
c. The length of the notified minimum term.
4. As to seriousness of the offence, the essential facts are that the Applicant had driven into Hull and there picked up his wife and her girlfriends from outside a nightclub.  Having dropped off the friends he drove to a lay by.  There he got on top of her with a view to having intercourse.  On his account she refused and in the subsequent argument said something which led him to believe that she had already had intercourse that night – he already suspected her of having an adulterous relationship.  He thereupon set about strangling her.  He tried without success to revive her and thereafter drove the car still containing the body to a police station.  At trial the issue had been murder or manslaughter (lack of intent, alternatively provocation).
5. The Applicant’s date of birth is 12th 1949.  He had a poor record for relatively petty offences of dishonesty.  The trial Judge’s comments were “He has not worked for many years.  He does not present a danger to the public.  He surrendered himself to the police always admitting remorse.”  The Lord Chief Justice commented: “The offender’s acceptance of responsibility coupled with the (non-legal) provocation justify a term shorter than normal.”
6. I am not empowered to order an increase upon the minimum term as notified by the Secretary of State; the issue for me is as to whether it should be reduced.  The contentions advanced on behalf of the Applicant are, first, that I should receive oral representation on his behalf; and second, that in any event I should order a reduction in the minimum term to take account of the mitigating factors, the Applicant’s conduct in prison and the period of time spent on remand (326 days).
7. I refuse to permit oral representations.  There are no exceptional circumstances such as would justify any such.  I deal with the matter on paper as follows.
8. By reference to Schedule 21 the current starting point for the purposes of determining the minimum term is 15 years.   There are no aggravating factors as identified in that Schedule but there are mitigating factors as identified above.
9. As to impact of these mitigating factors, I am satisfied such are generously reflected in the Secretary of State’s notification.  As at conviction the relevant starting point was as recommended by Lord Binhgam himself: 14 years.  The trial Judge did not recommend any discount; Lord Bingham recommended a 2 or 3 year discount.  In the event the Secretary of State endorsed what was then a 2 year discount but which is now a 3 year discount.  There is nothing in the circumstances of the offence that could possibly justify more.
10. Granted that I can take into account exceptional progress in prison subsequent to conviction and granted that the Applicant has conducted himself well during the intervening years, I do not think there is anything in the papers now before me that should impact upon the minimum term save the period spent on remand.
11. In my judgment the early release provisions should apply to the Applicant after 12 years less 326 days, that is after he has served 11 years and 29 days.



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