On 24th May 2013 Andrew Parsons was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of wife, Janee Parsons, in December last year. It seems that he accepted killing her (the stabbing was caught on a dictaphone) but claimed that it was manslaughter rather than murder (probably on the basis of ‘loss of control‘). This claim was rejected by the Jury.
They had been married for eight years and had two children together, but it seems that by the time of the stabbing the marriage had broken down. A short while before the murder, Ms Parsons had met another man and had said that she would move out to be with him. Mr Parsons stabbed his wife 17 times following an argument about her new partner.
The mandatory sentence for murder is life imprisonment. What the Judge then has to do is set the ‘tariff’, the minimum period that has to be spent in prison before someone can be considered for release by the Parole Board. An overview of how Judges sentence people for murder can be found here.
In this case, the tariff was set at 20 years. Why so long (or, depending on your view, so short)? The starting point is 15 years, which can go up or (far less frequently down) depending on the other circumstances. Here, it is probably the case that the Judge made the tariff longer because of the severity of the attack, the fact that the children were around at the time of the attack.
We will have to see whether there is an appeal to properly judge whether that sentence was the right. On the face of it, it would seem to have been longer than necessary. The reasons for that is that whilst there are the aggravating features mentioned above, it seems that there was no history of violence in Mr Parsons and it was, to some extent, spontaneous. Against that, we would have expected a tariff of 15 years, or possibly just higher. Time will tell if we were right or if there is further information not in the news reports.
Lastly – the BBC phrased the sentence by saying that Mr Parsons “was told he must serve at least 20 years of his life sentence”. This is an accurate summary of what the sentence means, which should not be something of note, but sadly is. If I had a pound for every time such a sentence had been stated as 20 years as if it were a determinate sentence, then I wouldn’t be writing this now. I’d be off in the sun somewhere …