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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 542 (QB)

Case No: 2005/54/MTR
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

13th June 2006:

 


Before:


MR JUSTICE GRIGSON

 

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APPLICATION BY MATTHEW LEWIS ALLEN FOR THE SETTING OF A MINIMUM TERM PURSUANT TO SCHEDULE 22, PARAGRAPH 3 OF THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT 2003


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DECISION

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Mr Justice Grigson:
1. This Applicant has been convicted of murder and consequently has been sentenced to imprisonment for life.  The trial judge made a recommendation as to the minimum term that the Applicant should serve by way of retribution and general deterrence before his case could be considered by the Parole Board.  That recommendation was reviewed by the Lord Chief Justice and forwarded to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who then notified the Applicant of the minimum term to be served.

2. The Applicant’s case must now be reviewed under the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

3. Under Schedule 22, paragraph 3 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 the Court is required either:

(a) to order that the Early Release Provisions apply to the Applicant and to fix the minimum period that the applicant must serve before his release on licence can be considered by the Parole Board, or

(b) order that the Early Release Provisions should not apply.

This case does not fall within paragraph 3(b).

4. The determination of the minimum term in relation to mandatory life sentences is governed by Schedule 22 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

5. The starting point of a minimum life term is to be decided by the seriousness of the offender’s conduct.

6. There are three categories of seriousness:

(a) Where the offender is over 21 and the seriousness of his conduct is exceptionally high, the starting point is a whole life order.
(b) Where the offender is over 18 and the seriousness is particularly high the starting point is 30 years.
(c) Where the offender is over 18 and the case does not come within (a) or (b) above, the starting point is 15 years.

7. The seriousness of the offender’s conduct is to be determined by the criteria set out in paragraph 4(2). [Exceptionally high cases] and 5(2) [Particularly high cases].  Conduct which does not qualify for either comes into the third category of seriousness.

8. Having chosen the starting point, the Court may either increase the minimum term or reduce the minimum term depending upon whether there are aggravating or mitigating factors (Paragraph 8).  Some of these factors are listed in paragraph 10 (Aggravating) or 11 (Mitigating).

9. Having thus ascertained the minimum term the Court must deduct from it time spent in custody on remand in relation to the index offence.

10. Good conduct whilst in prison is of great importance to the Offender and to those responsible for his progress within the prison system.  It is not one of the factors required to be taken into consideration by statute.  It is suggested that exceptional progress should be recognised by some reduction in the minimum term.

11. Where there is evidence of the effect of the murder upon the victim’s family, the Court has given proper consideration to that material.

12. The minimum term must not exceed that already notified by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. [Paragraph 3(1)(a) Schedule 22]
 

Facts:
This Applicant was engaged to Andrea Yorath.  She ended the engagement.  The Applicant was unable to accept this rejection.  He said that if she went with anyone else he would kill her.  He armed himself with a large chef’s knife.  In the early hours of the 8th April [    ] he went to the house, forced his way in and stabbed Andrea Yorath 7 times, 5 of the wounds to the front of her body, 2 to her back.  She suffered defence wounds to her arms and hands.  He pleaded guilty.
Recommendatons:
The trial judge recommended a minimum term of 15 years’ imprisonment.  The Lord Chief Justice recommended a term of 12 years.  The Secretary of State for the Home Department fixed the period at 14 years.
Material before the Court:
1. Probation Officer’s Report
2. Representations made to the Secretary of State dated the 15th September 1994.
3. Counsel’s Argument.
Submissions:
In representations dated 15th September and 15th December 2005, it was submitted that:
(a) that there was no ‘significant degree’ of premeditation;
(b) that Mr Allan was only 19 at the date of the offence;
(c) that he was of good character and was genuinely remorseful;
(d) that he has made excellent progress whilst in prison.

Starting Point:
This murder comes within the third category of seriousness.  The starting point is 15 years.
Aggravating Factors:
In my judgment the degree of premeditation was significant.
Mitigating Factors
It is arguable that the Applicant suffered a degree of provocation.  He is certainly remorseful. He has made good progress whilst in prison.
Conclusion
Bearing in mind the recommendation of the trial judge and of the Lord Chief Justice, and having particular regard to the exceptional progress that the Applicant has made in prison, I fix the minimum term at 13 years, less 12 months and 2 days spent in custody on remand.

 


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