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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: [2008] EWHC 37 (QB)

Case No:  2004/1016/MTR

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 30/01/2008

Before :

THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE DAVIS
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Between :

                                    Regina Claimant
                                    - and - 
                                 Dilip Patel Defendant

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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.


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Mr Justice Davis :
 
1. The applicant was born on 24 April 1965.  On 19 April 2002 at the Crown Court of Preston before HHJ Openshaw QC (the Honorary Recorder of Preston) the applicant pleaded guilty to an offence of murder.  A sentence of life imprisonment was duly imposed. 
2. Having regard to the date of the offence and conviction I must have regard to the provisions of the Practice Direction [2004] 1 WLR 2551 and in particular paragraphs iv.49.14 to iv.49.21.
3. The background facts as summarised by the trial judge were these.  The deceased, a lady called Chandrika Patel, was aged 50.  She was an Indian national who had come to the United Kingdom in 1991 as a visitor but then overstayed without leave.  The applicant (who was no blood relation of hers) was aged 35 at the time.  He had come to the United Kingdom from India in 1987 and had acquired UK citizenship.  In 1995 the applicant married Chandrika Patel’s daughter but they divorced in 1996.  However, the applicant then went through a sham marriage with Chandrika Patel, it would seem in an attempt to give her right of residence in the United Kingdom.  Nevertheless, he continued to live with Chandrika Patel’s daughter, Manisha, as man and wife and in the same house with Chandrika Patel in Wembley, North London.  There was then a falling out between the applicant and Chandrika Patel.  He left the home but wanted to return to live with Manisha.  Manisha said that she would not leave her mother.  The applicant first attempted to remove Chandrika Patel from the scene by anonymously reporting her to the immigration authorities but this ruse failed.  The applicant became depressed and made a serious attempt on his own life.  He then, having failed to persuade Manisha to leave her mother, Chandrika, he decided to kill her.  He visited Chandrika Patel knowing that she would be alone in her house on 20 November 2000.  He there killed her by strangulation, bound her mouth with a tape and bundled her body into a bin bag and took it to his car.  With the help of a friend (who in due course pleaded guilty to assisting him to dispose of the body) he drove 200 odd miles north to Lancashire and dumped the body in a field.  The body lay undiscovered until 27 December and was not identified for another month.  Meanwhile the applicant was attempting to reassure the family that Chandrika Patel was alive and well but detained by the immigration authorities.  When interviewed he initially denied that he had killed her but blamed his friend who had helped him dispose of the body.  Initially, there was a potential fitness to plead issue but when the medical evidence made it clear he was fit to plead the applicant then changed his instructions and admitted that he had killed Chandrika Patel.  A further delay arose while the question of diminished responsibility was investigated; but when medical evidence rebutted that defence and before a jury was empanelled he then pleaded guilty to murder.
4. The judge noted that psychological testing showed that the applicant had a marked degree of mental impairment and some mild learning disability.  There was no mental illness but it was agreed that he had only a limited capacity to cope with stress.  The trial judge’s view on tariff was that 12 years was an appropriate minimum term.  The aggravating features noted were that this was a pre-planned and deliberate murder and that there was an attempt to dispose of the body far away from the scene of the crime without obvious means of identification and causing additional anguish and uncertainty to the family of the deceased.  Mitigation was noted as the plea of guilt;  the applicant’s low intelligence;  the lack of professionalism or sophistication;  the lack of previous convictions;  and the judge’s conclusion that the applicant presented as a rather sad and inadequate individual who posed no danger to other persons.  The recommendation of the trial judge was agreed by the then Lord Chief Justice (Lord Woolf); and 12 years in the event was the determination notified by the Home Secretary on 25 September 2002.  The applicant had spent 10 months and 11 days in custody on remand.
5. I have considered the written representations put on behalf of the applicant.  Those representations identify a number of matters by way of mitigation, which I need not further rehearse here and which I have taken into account.  It is further said that the applicant bitterly regrets his part in the victim’s death and recognises that he has killed an innocent woman;  it is said that the applicant was blinded by his love for Manisha.  It was further pointed out that the applicant has made considerable progress whilst in custody and has undertaken a number of courses and has behaved in a very commendable way.  I have had regard to that.  Given these circumstances, it seems to me that a specified minimum term of 12 years really is the very minimum that could properly be imposed given the circumstances of this offending.  I can see no justification, notwithstanding the points made, to reducing it any further (although of course it is not open to me nor would I seek to increase the minimum term).
6. Accordingly, having regard to the circumstances and having regard to considerations of retribution and deterrence, I specify the minimum term to be served in this case before the applicant may be considered for release on parole as 12 years;  from which is to be deducted 10 months 11 days representing time spent in custody on remand.


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