Christopher Symons was convicted on 25th October 2013 of the murder of Patricia Goodband. On 28th October he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Mr Symons and Ms Goodband ran a haulage and agricultural business together. It was alleged (and the jury accepted) that Mr Symons, in order to get his hands on Ms Goodband’s share of the business, murdered her on 22nd December 2012 and threw her body down a well.
There were other people involved – Jennifer Creasy (Mr Symons partner) was convicted of Assisting an Offender and sentenced to six months and Robert Taft (a friend of Mr Symons) received 10 months for Perverting the Course of Justice. It is not clear, however, what their roles were.
Mr Symons was given the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. The tariff was set at 27 years. Why so long?
An explanation of how tariffs are set is here. The key to why it was such a lengthy sentence is the motivation of Mr Symons. It was alleged by the Prosecution, and must have been accepted by the Judge, that the murder was ‘done for gain’. This normally attracts a starting point of 30 years.
Here, there was no plea of guilty, so no reduction in sentence because of that. As to why the minimum term was 27 rather than 30 years? We don’t know, but it may be, in part, that Mr Symons had never been in trouble before.
More significantly, he is now aged 63. In 27 years time, he will be 90 years old. Old age would normally require some reduction in sentence and so this may explain it.
There are few, if any, nonagenarians in prison. Clearly Mr Symons will be no longer an effective risk long before that. Whether such a long tariff is needed for punishment or protection of the public, or is a good use of public money, is not clear. But it is likely that the Judge could not have gone much lower without attracting an Attorney-General’s Reference.