When John Larsen, the former mayor of Denbigh in Wales, retired from public office he had a slightly unusual way of spending his time – indulging his ‘active interest in pyrotechnics’ by setting off bombs is his local area (one of which, apparently, “sent ball bearings and metal shrapnel flying up to 90 feet away”.
Mr Larsen was convicted after a trial of three charges of arson, one of causing an explosion likely to endanger life and a fifth of possession of explosives with intent to endanger life. We don’t have details of exactly what happened, but do know that he had blown up (someone else’s) car and was behind ‘a string of explosions which had been causing fear in the community’. Fortunately, whilst property was damaged and people were understandably concerned, it does not appear that anyone was hurt.
He was sentenced to a total of 18 years imprisonment on 24th October 2013. We don’t know if (and if so, then how) this was broken down between the five offences.
There were three separate offences :
- Arson (contrary to s1(3) Criminal Damage Act 1971) – maximum sentence life imprisonment
- Causing an explosion likely to endanger life (s2 Explosive Substances Act 1883) – maximum sentence life imprisonment
- Possession of explosives with intent to endanger life (s3(1)(b) Explosive Substances Act 1883 – maximum sentence life imprisonment
There are no guidelines or guideline cases that exist (there’s some rough guidance from Banks on Sentencing here).
What is entirely lacking from the news reports is any idea as to why Mr Larsen committed this offence. It does not
However, whilst no-one was injured, it is worth noting that one of the offences was possessing explosives with the intention of endangering the life of another, which may indicate a more sinister motive than is suggested in the news reports.
The rough guidance would suggest that, without an intent to endanger life, the sentence is too long (and a sentence of between 8-12 years would be more appropriate). It is worth comparing with the case of Pavlo Lapyshyn who received a 12 year sentences (on a plea of guilty to ‘terrorist’ bombings). The increase to 18 years could be justified because of the intent to endanger life, but only if there was something akin to a specific threat to an individual – ie, the Prosecution had proved that Mr Larsen had a target that he was intending to kill.
So, on the face of it, it seems not just a very long sentence, but a sentence that is so long, it is too long. There will (hopefully) be an appeal, where all the facts will be set out and we will be able to Judge whether the sentence was a fair one or not.