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.