After having been convicted of the murder of her partner, Edward Miller, by a jury at Lincoln Crown Court, Michelle Mills was sentenced to life imprisonment with a 15 year tariff on 30th April 2013.
Ms Mills, 31, lived with Mr Miller (who was aged 20) and was at the time trying to regain custody of her two children. It seems that an argument developed after she found cannabis that Mr Miller had brought to the house. This culminated in Mr Mills stabbing her partner 24 times. This was with varying degrees of force.
Why was the tariff set at 15 years? Looking at the guidelines for murder, we can see that this falls into the ‘lowest category’. It seems that none of the aggravating features were present. The mitigating features that appear to have been identified by the Judge were the fact that there was no premeditation (it appears to have been a spur of the moment thing that came from the argument) and Ms Mills was not intending to kill Mr Miller, but to cause him really serious harm (notwithstanding the ferocity of the attack).
This would point to a sentence lower than 15 years. However, it was probably treated by the Judge as being aggravated by the fact that there were so many stab wounds as well as there being a history of Ms Mills using knives (although these do not seemed to have resulted in a conviction).
Looking at it together, it would seem that these factors roughly balance each other out, hence the final tariff being left at 15 years. For that reason, it is unlikely that any appeal would be successful.
Last week we looked at the case of Adam Whelan who killed his partner by stabbing her 19 times. He got a tariff of 26 years. The main reason for this huge disparity is that he took the knife to the scene, whereas Ms Mills used a knife that was to hand. Killing someone with a knife that you were intending to use (not necessarily to murder someone) means that the starting point is a 25 year tariff.
This case provides an example of the unfairness that this can sometimes cause. Had Ms Mills carried a knife outside for self defence purposes and then used it during an argument, she would have faced a starting point of 10 years higher, despite the offence being essentially the same. Is that a valid way of deterring knife crime, or a cause of injustice?