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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: [2007] EWHC 1864 (QB)

Case No: 2004/757/MTS

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 21/08/2007


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Approved Judgment
I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A para 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.


(Setting of Minimum Term Schedule 22 Criminal Justice Act 2003)


The Honourable Mr Justice Treacy :
1. This Defendant is Ian John Gray.  His date of birth is 11 January 1964.  I tried him together with a jury at Manchester Crown Court between 7 and 15 April 2003.  Mr Gray was convicted of murder.  I sentenced him to life imprisonment.  In due course I recommended a minimum term of 15 years, to be served before Mr Gray could be considered for release by the Parole Board.
2. Because the arrangements for setting minimum terms were in transition, the papers were not considered by the Lord Chief Justice with a view to his giving a recommendation.
3. The offence was committed on 6 March 2002 when Nathanial Jacobs aged 40 was brutally attacked and killed at his work premises.  Mr Jacobs was a respectable individual who was shortly due to be married.  The Crown’s case was that Gray had killed Mr Jacobs in an attack in which Gray’s son (John Gray) and Gray’s half-brother (Christopher Lambe) had also participated.  Because Mr Gray Senior had hidden from the Police after the killing, Lambe and Gray Junior were tried first by the then Recorder of Manchester (HH Judge Rhys Davies QC) in July and August 2002.  Both men were convicted at that trial.  Gray Senior was subsequently arrested and tried by me.
4. Gray Junior’s conviction was quashed on appeal and he was subsequently re-tried before HH Judge Maddison at Manchester in autumn 2004.  At that trial Gray Junior was acquitted.  The circumstances of the murder were that Gray and the other two had been drinking.  They initially visited Mr Jacobs’ office premises, an employment agency, to greet someone who worked there. 
5. Gray, apparently feeling that insufficient deference had been shown to him, was abusive to the office staff.  Gray and the two others went to a nearby public house. After a while they returned to the office premises.  The deceased, Mr Jacobs, opened the door to them in a civil fashion.  He was then head butted by Lambe.  He was then chased by all three men from the ground floor up to the second floor of the premises.  Gray Senior was in the lead.  Mr Jacobs was repeatedly stabbed with a dagger which had either been in the possession of Lambe or Gray Junior.
6. It appeared from the evidence at trial that the initial three stabs were not delivered by Gray Senior.  However, after that, some 14 or so deep stabs were delivered.  The evidence pointed towards Gray Senior as being responsible for these.  In addition, Mr Jacobs was also hit by a spade which had been picked up at the premises and he was stamped on. 
7. The evidence showed that Mr Jacobs was not known to the accused.  This attack was wholly unprovoked.  Mr Jacobs was an entirely innocent man who had given no offence at all.  It appeared to me that Gray Senior was the leader of the group. 
8. I took the view that the sole reason for the crime was Gray Senior’s desire to bully and impose his will on others.  It was clear to me from the terrified demeanour of some of the prosecution witnesses, and from the content of witness statements, that Gray Senior had an intimidatory reputation in his part of Manchester. 
9. His defence at trial was a denial of responsibility for the killing, either by personal use of the knife or knowledge of its use or contemplated use by others. 
10. In addition to the attack upon Mr Jacobs, the evidence showed that the group progressing through the offices were violent towards an employee who sought to assist Mr Jacobs.  He was struck in the mouth and required 5 stitches.  A customer was hit on the head with a metal tray and immediately after the killing Gray Senior returned to the offices having picked up a pickaxe and damaged computer equipment. 
11. In my judgment the circumstances of the attack showed a very high likelihood of an intention to kill.  There was certainly complete indifference as to whether or not death resulted. 
12. The aggravating features of the case are plain.  This was a brutal and unprovoked attack upon a wholly innocent victim.  It involved the use of extreme violence.  The killing arose out of a desire on Gray Senior’s part to impose his bullying will on others.  It is hard to see that there are any mitigating features of the offence.  Certainly Gray Senior did not have the benefit of a guilty plea.  He showed absolutely no remorse.  It might be said that what took place was not long planned or premeditated but it is clear that the group returned from the public house in an ugly frame of mind, obviously bent on violence.  It might also be said that, notwithstanding his demeanour and apparent reputation, Mr Gray is relatively lightly convicted as far as offences of violence or disorder are concerned - two s.47 matters recorded in the 1980’s and a public order conviction recorded in 1995, none of those matters resulting in an immediate custodial sentence. 
13. Despite a number of contacts, Mr Gray did not appear to have taken the opportunity to make representations until he submitted a letter dated 6 August 2007.  I have read that letter.  Mr Gray acknowledges responsibility for the murder of Nathanial Jacobs.  He claims to be remorseful.  He points out to a number of achievements which he has attained whilst in custody.  He also attaches a document entitled “Proof of Evidence”.  It is undated.  It appears to have been prepared for the purpose of the retrial of his son, John Gray.  In it Mr Gray accepts responsibility for Mr Jacobs’ death.  He exonerates his son John Gray.  He puts forward other assertions about the circumstances of this offence which appear to me to be at odds with the evidence given at his trial.  I have considered those documents.  I note the acknowledgement of responsibility for the murder of Mr Jacobs (albeit very belated).  The unsigned, undated ‘Proof of Evidence’ to which I have referred does not persuade me to alter my overall view of the offending or Mr Gray’s culpability.
I have, in addition, considered a letter submitted by the mother of the deceased man.  It speaks of the family’s grief at their loss, the effect on different individuals of Mr Jacobs’s death, and it accurately comments that his life was ended by men who showed no mercy or remorse. 
14. Had this murder been committed today I would have fixed a longer minimum term than that which I recommended after the trial.  That is because Schedule 21 of the Criminal Justice Act has indicated a higher starting point than hitherto and also because the level of sentencing in murder cases has undoubtedly increased since the 2003 legislation. 
15. Since this offence was committed, and indeed dealt with, prior to the coming into force of the 2003 Act on 18 December 2003, the transitional provisions incorporated into the Act apply.  Those provisions are to be found in Schedule 22 to the Act.  The practical effect of those provisions is explained in the decision of Sullivan and others (2004) EWCA Crim 1762.  I must not sentence Mr Gray any more severely than would have been the practice prior to the coming into force of the Act.  The correct approach is to have regard to the letter sent to judges by Lord Bingham, Chief Justice, on 10 February 1997. 
16. I must also have regard to the recommendation which I made immediately after the trial.  Were I dealing with the matter afresh, but applying the guidance of Lord Bingham, I would give serious consideration to a slightly higher figure by way of minimum term than I did at the time of the trial.  However, it seems to me that it would be wrong to depart from that earlier recommendation at this stage, not least since Mr Gray was probably notified of it some time ago. 
17. Accordingly, taking account of the nature and circumstances of this offence, with its aggravating features, and having regard to the recommendation which I made shortly after trial, I make a minimum term order of 15 years less 4 months and 12 days pursuant to s.240 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.  This allowance under s.240 does not in fact represent any practical difference to the order previously made since, under the law as it previously stood, credit for that period of time served on remand would automatically have been made towards the time to be served.  I would also wish to emphasise that the sentence remains as one of life imprisonment and that the fixing of the minimum term represents the minimum that Mr Gray must serve.  He will only be released after he has served that term if, on assessment at that time, the Parole Board considers that he can safely be released.  If it does not come to that view he will have to remain in custody until they deem it is safe for him to be released.
18. The minimum term is set at 15 years less 4 months and 12 days.

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