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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 1145 (QB)

Case No: 2005/29/MTR
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 22/06/2006

Before :

THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE OPENSHAW
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Between :

 REGINA Prosecution
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 Dominic Michael SULLIVAN 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.

MINIMUM TERM REVIEW
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THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE OPENSHAW


 
The Hon. Mr. Justice OPENSHAW :
 

1. On the 13th December 1995, following his conviction for murder before His Honour Judge Gordon, after a trial at the Central Criminal Court, Dominic Michael Sullivan was sentenced to the mandatory term of life imprisonment. Following the practice of the time, the judge recommended that he serve 14 years before being considered for release by the Parole Board. In due course, that recommendation was increased by Lord Taylor of Gosforth CJ to 15 years. The Secretary of State later notified him that he had set the tariff at 15 years. The process is now subject to the new regime introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003.  Dominic Michael Sullivan is now an ‘existing prisoner’ within the meaning of section 276 and Schedule 22 of the Act and he has applied under paragraph 3 of that schedule for the minimum term to be reviewed by the High Court.
2. The facts as found by the judge were these. On 28 May 1995, which was a Bank Holiday Sunday, a ‘rave’ was held at premises in Kings Cross known as “Bagleys”; a crowd estimated at 1,500 – 1,800 attended.  Security was provided by an outside firm. There were also some eight in-house security men, including a team of three, two of whom were the deceased (David Anderson) and the victim of Count 2 (Michael Kharshialis).  Their task was to circulate in plain clothes looking for drug dealers, whom they then ejected.  The event was organised by an outside promoter, who had his own security staff, among whom – so the prosecution claimed -  was the defendant. There was rivalry between the two groups.
3. At about 1 o’clock the next morning, the deceased, in his team with his two companions, were in one of the bars; from what they saw and heard they concluded that the defendant and another man were drug dealers and they decided to eject them. They approached, spoke to and went to take hold of both; the defendant pushed Kharshialis away and was grabbed by Anderson.  A struggle ensued, during which the defendant produced a knife and stabbed him. Karshialis got hold of the defendant and put him in a headlock; in an attempt to free himself, the defendant stabbed Kharshialis 3 times in the side of the upper leg and, in all probability, once in the back.  He was dragged to an “out of bounds” corridor, during which he stabbed Anderson again.   Supporters from both sides arrived and within a short time the defendant was chased from the premises, caught and given a severe beating.  He was rescued and taken to some nearby lavatories, telling his rescuer on the way that he didn’t know why he had done the stabbing.  At the lavatories he hid in a disused cubicle for two hours, concealing the sheath of this knife in the cistern. He then came out, surrendered to police and was taken to hospital.
4. Anderson died of stab wounds to the left chest, which penetrated the heart.  There were three other stab wounds to the abdomen.  Kharshialis was in hospital for three days. The stabbing of Kharshialis led to the defendant’s conviction upon a charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, contrary to section 18 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, which resulted in a sentence of 9 years imprisonment.
5. During the incident the defendant lost his jacket.  The prosecution alleged that a jacket which was recovered from the scene was the defendant’s; it had in the pockets 24 fake ecstasy tablets (made of anaesthetic and a mild stimulant, neither controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971) and some money, which tended to confirm that the suspicions formed by the deceased were well founded.
6. In his written representations, the defendant seeks to challenge some of these findings but they were made by the trial judge who heard the evidence at the time; these are findings which, in my judgment, I must accept. 
7. The defendant was aged 22. He had a number of previous convictions for robbery, possessing an offensive weapon (a butterfly knife and some ammonia); at the time of committing the murder, he was on bail for possessing an offensive weapon (again a butterfly knife).
8. It is clear from the facts of this case that the defendant was carrying a knife; indeed in his written representations to this court, he accepts that he was in the habit of carrying a knife. Plainly, he was ready to use it as the need arose. This is an aggravating factor, made worse by the fact that he was on bail for a like offence. Such conduct needs strongly to be discouraged. Furthermore the fact that the killing took place within drugs-related rivalry is a further aggravating feature; as is the fact that he also stabbed Kharshialis.
9. As against this is the mitigation, such as it is, of the defendant’s age. The aggravating factors to which I have drawn attention plainly outweigh the mitigation by a wide margin.
10. I note the progress which the defendant claims to have made in prison, which is to some measure supported by the reports which I have read; this does not in my judgment amount to such an exceptional feature as to justify a reduction in the minimum term otherwise appropriate; it may however be material which may be influential when his case is reviewed by the Parole Board.
11. I cannot now increase the minimum term. In 1995, there were no published guidelines as to how the Secretary of State did fix the minimum term. Having regard to the aggravating features to which I have drawn attention, I fix the minimum term at 15 years.
12. I order, as I am required to do, that the term of 15 years is reduced by the period of 6 months and 11 days which he spent in custody before being sentenced. 
13. I am anxious that this sentence is not misunderstood or mis-reported. The sentence is – and remains – a sentence of imprisonment for life. The defendant may not even be considered for release until he has served at least 15 years. That is not to say that he will then be released; indeed he will be detained unless and until the Parole Board is satisfied that he no longer presents a risk to the public. Even if the Parole Board decides then or at some time in the future to authorise his release, he will be upon licence which will extend for the rest of his life.

 


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