EDIT: Ashley Charles has lodged an appeal against conviction and sentence, fuller details of the updated position are here.
We will revisit the case again when the appeal is heard. In the interim, we have decided to close the comments on this post. Thank you to those who have participated in the discussion of the sentence. END
On Friday 9th November, Ashley Charles was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Phillip Sherriff, following a nightclub fight. The tariff was set at 14 years.
The facts are that Mr Charles was at a bar when he was pushed by a Phillip Sherriff over an innocuous argument (as is too often the case, the full sentencing remarks are not available). It seems that Mr Charles grabbed a bottle from Mr Sherriff, swung it behind him (where it broke) and plunged it into Mr Sherriff’s neck.
It seems that this was ‘out of character’ (meaning that there was, in all likelihood, no history of violence in Mr Charles past) and that he did not deliberately smash the bottle before attacking Mr Sherriff. Also, afterwards, Mr Charles was remorseful, saying “is he okay? I wish I had not done that. It was a stupid mistake.” He pleaded not guilty and had a trial, saying that he was acting in self-defence. The jury rejected this however and found him guilty of murder.
So, the ‘Goldilocks Question’ – was the sentence too high, too short, or about right? It is clear that the starting point is 15 years. There was no credit for a plea of guilty, so why did the Judge reduce the tariff by one year?
For this, you need to look at the aggravating and mitigating features. On the face of it, none of the aggravating features are present. At least two of the seven mitigating features (an intention to cause really serious harm rather than an intention to kill and a lack of premeditation) were present.
In light of that, it would seem that the question is why the reduction was only one year rather than more, given all of the above? For that, we will have to wait to see if there is an appeal, but on the face of it, it would not have been surprising if the tariff had been less.