Hapless Hitmen get 40 year tariff


Two hitmen (Jason Richards and Ben Hope) who had been described by the Judge, Royce J as “staggeringly incompetent” were sentenced to life imprisonment on 8th February with a minimum tariff of 40 years for the murder of Aamir Siddiqi.

They had been convicted after a trial that lasted four and a half months. They had been hired by an unamed man to kill someone, but got the wrong address. They broke in and stabbed Aamir and both of his parents several times. His parents survived (and Mr Richards and Mr Hope were convicted of their Attempted Murder) but unfortunately Aamir did not recover from his injuries.

We do not have the sentencing remarks (but in a case like this it would be hoped that they will be made available in due course). The sentence of life imprisonment is a mandatory one, but why was the ‘tariff’ (the minimum period of time that has to be served before someone can be released) set at 40 years?

This is one of the longest tariffs that has ever been set. We have set out the different starting points and aggravating and mitigating features here. Because this was a ‘murder for hire’, the starting point is 30 years. The BBC said “The judge, Mr Justice Royce, said he had no choice but to “significantly increase” the minimum term of 30 years the prosecution had asked for“.

This is, we have to say, an example of sloppy reporting. The prosecution would not have ‘asked’ for a minimum term of 30 years (prosecutors in England and Wales do not ask for, or recommend, a sentence). They would have brought the sentencing provisions to the attention of the Judge who will decide the sentence.

We do not know why the Judge felt that he had ‘no choice’ but to give a significant increase. It is clearly a serious offence, but that is catered for in the sentence of life imprisonment and the 30 year starting point. The main aggravating feature is the two other offences of Attempted Murder that both had to be sentenced for. Standing alone, these would have attracted lengthy sentences and it is likely that that accounts for most, if not all, of the increase.

The only other ‘listed’ aggravating feature that is possibly present is ‘a significant degree of planning or premeditation‘ but this does not seem to fit with the comments made by the sentencing judge. We will have to wait for the sentencing remarks before finding out more but, on the face of it, expect an appeal. The Judge said to the two men that “if you die in jail, few will shed a tear and many will say it will be more than deserved” which is a sentiment that many would share. That sentiment however does not relieve us from asking whether the sentence is right. On the face of, it is not clear that the aggravating features here justify the increase in the starting point from a third.



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About Dan Bunting

I'm a lawyer who works for myself. Legal geek, maths freak, general dullard and jack of all trades. Here’s a few views on law and occasional musings on life. Usual caveats about not relying on anything I say etc applies.

7 thoughts on “Hapless Hitmen get 40 year tariff

  1. Pingback: Why don’t people plead guilty to murder? | UK Criminal Law Blog

  2. FaIr play

    If someone is found guilty of murder by a jury after pleading not guilty and a starting point of 15 years is given what is the minimum tariff that a person can get in the uk?

    1. Dan Bunting Post author

      There’s no minimum as such, although under ten years is very unusual.

      The shortest time I’m aware of is for Lee Clegg who served two years, but that was a long time ago when sentences were shorter and there were various other factors.

      I remember a mercy killing case a few years ago that had a three year tariff – again, v exceptional circumstances.

      1. FaIr play

        Thanks for your reply.
        Would the same apply at an appeal against a sentence.
        If a starting point of 15 years was set and a 14 year tariff was given. If an appeal is successful is there a minimum that can be given?

  3. FaIr play

    Thanks for your reply.
    Would the same apply at an appeal against a sentence.
    If a starting point of 15 years was set and a 14 year tariff was given if an appeal is successful is there a minimum that can be given.

    1. Dan Bunting Post author

      No, on an appeal the same rules apply. If the Judge finds that the sentence is ‘manifestly excessive’ then they can pass any tariff that they think is appropriate.

      I suppose the theoretical minimum would be one day, but that would only be given in extreme circumstances.

  4. Pingback: ‘Hapless Hitmen’ have appeals dismissed – Jason Richards and Ben Hope | UK Criminal Law Blog

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