On 20th November Adam Lewis was sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering his girlfriend – Hannah Windsor. The tariff was set at 22 years.
Fortunately, we have the sentencing remarks, so we can know why that was set as the tariff (for murder the sentence of life imprisonment is mandatory).
The brief facts are that Mr Lewis, who was only a few months over the age of 18 at the time of the murder, had had a traumatic childhood with a very low IQ and a personality disorder. On 12th May he had burgled a house and set two fires in it, before camping out in hiding. Ms Windsor came and visited him on 14th May (they had previously separated and got back together) and he told her what he had done.
She reported this to the police, who warned her not to have any contact with him. However, she went to see him again on 16th May. Whilst the facts are not certain, it seems that Mr Lewis tied Ms Windsor to a tree, before penetrating her vagina and anus causing bruising and tears. He then cut and stabbed her various times and strangled her. It was a prolonged death and as the Judge noted, must have been a terrifying experience and the Judge found that he intended to kill. After she died, Mr Lewis hid the body.
However, a few days later he told police that he was responsible for the killing and showed the police where the body was. Given that there was an element of sexual conduct and sadism, the starting point was 30 years.
Balanced against that, Mr Lewis was just only over 18 (if he had been 17, then the starting point would have been 12 years). That, and his mental age, merited a significant reduction from the 30 year starting point. There were no other mitigating features apart from the plea of guilty.
The plea was entered on the day of trial and the Judge made a reduction of 2 years for this (a reduction of just over 8%). There were concurrent determinate sentences imposed on the other offences. The consequences of the sentence on the assaults by penetration is that Mr Lewis will be on the Sex Offenders Register for life.
So – is that the right sentence? The starting point is correct and the reasons for reducing it by 6 years seem about right, although it could be said that bearing in mind he was so close to the age of 18, it is a little on the high side. Also, it could be said that the reduction of the sentence because of the guilty plea was too small when looking at the ‘usual’ reduction of 10% for a plea on the day of trial and that he had admitted the killing earlier. Putting those together, it is possible that an appeal will have a chance of succeeding, but we will have to wait and see.
Guidance on sentencing where defendants are very close either way to their eighteenth birthday can be found here.