On 11th December, Kieren Smith was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his mother. It was a brutal murder, Kieren stabbed his mother 94 times. There was a trial in which Kieren seems to have claimed that she was murdered by a gang over a drug debt incurred by his brother. The jury quickly disbelieved him and the Judge passed the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment and set the tariff at 15 years.
Guidance on how a tariff is set can be found here. As is usual, sadly, we don’t have the sentencing remarks, so have to reconstruct it from the news reports. Why 15 years?
Well, he was 16 at the time (17 at the time of sentence), so the starting point (whatever the nature of the murder) is 12 years. As there was a trial, there could be no credit (discount) for a plea of guilty. To see why the sentence was increased by 25%, it is necessary to look at the aggravating and mitigating features.
On the face of it, the fact that the attack was so violent aggravates the offence (as arguably does the use of a knife by a youth). In mitigation, Kieren had a very low IQ, a somewhat turbulent family life and was 16 (youth is mostly taken into account in the starting point of 12 years, but if someone is younger than 17 then this can amount to further mitigation). Balancing these, it can be seen why a tariff higher than 12 years was thought appropriate.
Did the Judge get it right? We’ll have to wait and see if there is an appeal. In all the circumstances, did the Judge allow his revulsion for the fact of a brutal attack by a son on his mother to increase the sentence higher than he should have done?