Clive Sharp was sentenced to life imprisonment, on 25th February with an extremely long tariff of 37 years, after pleading guilty to the murder of Catherine Gowing. Why such a long tariff, particularly after a guilty plea?
Mr Sharp had previously been sent to prison on two separate occasions for rape and sexual assault. This is a serious aggravating feature straight off.
The crime was brutal. Mr Sharp was in a relationship with Ms Gowing’s housemate. The court was told that this “was a sexually-motivated murder in which the defendant entered the house in the middle of the night, tied Miss Gowing up and raped her.”
Thereafter, he disposed of her body by cutting it up and set her car on fire to hide evidence in an attempt to hide his role in the offence.
So. Looking at sentencing for murder which we’ve covered before, was Mr Sharp’s sentence right? Well. The starting point is 30 years because of the sexual element.
One obvious aggravating feature is “concealment, destruction or dismemberment of the body.” Also present, perhaps, is an element of planning and additional mental and physical suffering. This, coupled with the previous offending, certainly increases the tariff. None of the mitigating features were present.
This explains an increase, but why the increase of 12 years? We will have to wait to see the full sentencing remarks, but would suggest that the sentence seems slightly high, but not necessarily such as to be ‘manifestly excessive’. Mr Sharp is clearly dangerous, but that is covered by the sentence of life imprisonment. For that reason however, we can expect an appeal, not least because there is little for Mr Sharp to lose.
Why do we say 12 years increase? This is because of the guilty plea. The judge took a starting point of 42 years and reduced it by 5 years, the most than it can be for someone pleading guilty to murder.
It must be remembered that the 37 year period is a minimum period of time that has to be served before there is any possibility of release. Mr Sharp is 46. He will be 83 before there is any chance of him being released. We have got more figures for how long people are kept in ‘post tariff’ and will look at this in more detail after having done the sums, but, for Mr Sharp this is effectively a whole life sentence.
Having said previously that people rarely plead* guilty to murder, particularly in cases with a 30 year tariff, here’s one exception to it.
*The first version of this read ‘people rarely people’ – edited for spelling and to make sense.