Edgar, aged 20, was convicted of murder. His mother was in a relationship with the victim, Mr Wood. There had been animosity between Edgar and Wood, reportedly over who was ‘the man in the house’.
Edgar’s mother alleged that Wood had assaulted her on previous occasions. One evening, a row broke out between Wood and the mother. Edgar intervened, holding Wood in a headlock. In a further argument occurring in the kitchen, Edgar took a knife from the draining board and stabbed Wood. He subsequently died.
He called 999 saying ‘I have stabbed my mum’s boyfriend’.
At trial, he claimed that he believed he had picked up a fork, rather than a knife. This was disbelieved by the jury. He also claimed he was acting in self defence.
There were text messages from Edgar’s phone threatening to harm Wood, however the Judge stated that these were ‘the angry outbursts of a young man of limited intelligence who heard that his mother had been attacked by her boyfriend’.
‘I am in no doubt whatever that his death occurred after he had drunkenly attacked your mother and you had restrained him in an upstairs bedroom, where he had also threatened you with violence.
‘I reject the Crown’s case that on that evening you had some premeditated plan to attack Wood. The evidence of all witnesses present that evening shows that relations between all of you were good until your mother and Wood got involved in a drunken row.
‘In my judgement the text traffic were the angry outbursts of a young man of limited intelligence who heard that his mother had been attacked by her boyfriend.
‘It follows that this is a truly tragic case in which a drunken domestic argument between Mark Wood and your mother and his drunken attack upon her, led to your entirely justified intervention and then in very short order, his death.
‘You have been convicted of a murder charge because you went too far in dealing with his aggression.”
An explanation of the starting points for mandatory life sentences can be seen here.
The sentence imposed was mandatory life with a minimum term of 12 years. There are no sentencing remarks so we are left guessing as to how the Judge arrived at that sentence.
The starting point for murders committed with knives is 25 years, however this only applies where the knife was taken to the scene. In this case, we can assume that the weapon was not taken to the scene as the murder occurred in the kitchen and the news report suggests that the knife was picked up by Edgar in the course of the argument.
That brings the starting point to 15 years.
The Judge stated ‘’I reject the Crown’s case that on that evening you had some premeditated plan to attack Wood.’ The lack of premeditation constitutes a mitigating factor. Similarly, his youth and ‘limited intellect’ and the fact that he was provoked (by the violence to his mother) would also have constituted mitigation. It is unclear whether Edgar’s claim that he acted in self defence was outright rejected by the jury, and the Judge made no remark to that effect that we are aware of. It may be that if Edgar was acting in fear of violence (as he claimed), that this will also have constituted mitigation.
There was no plea of guilty and so a modest reduction from the starting point of 15 years was the sentence arrived at by the Judge.
At first glance, a 12-year minimum term appears somewhat low. However, after examining the news reports and taking account of the Judge’s remarks (assuming that they are accurate), one is able to see how the Judge arrived at that sentence.