Monthly Archives: December 2013

MPs wasting YOUR money on hopeless criminal justice legislation

Last week, I read a blog written by barrister Matthew Scott. It concerned the proposed Sentencing Escalator Bill. It is a Private Members Bill sponsored by Philip Hollobone MP, the member for Kettering.

You can read the Bill here (it won’t take long). Its essence is that where a person is convicted of the same offence on a second (or subsequent) occasion, the Bill would require that the sentence for the second (or subsequent) offence be longer than the original sentence.

You can read Matthew’s blog here. Matthew concisely and effectively demolishes the proposal. Aside from further limiting judicial discretion – the idea that judges who preside over trials or have access to the case papers are best placed to know what the proper sentence is, surprising I know, – (as Matthew very concisely and eloquently explains) the Bill would create a number of anomalies.

One such anomaly would be thus. An offender is convicted of a nasty s47 ABH, receiving 4 years. He is subsequently convicted of ABH. The Bill would require that he receives a lengthier sentence than on the first ABH, notwithstanding that the second ABH might be very minor and in realty warrant a 12 month sentence. Matthew highlights that if the first conviction was for GBH, and the second was for ABH, then the Bill would not require that a lengthier sentence be imposed. The Bill would, as he states, target those who had been fairly nasty in the past, but not those with a very nasty past.

Consider where an offender is convicted of theft from their employer, involving vast amounts of money and a sophisticated method. They receive 6 years. If they were then convicted of stealing a Mars bar from a shop, the Bill would require that they receive a lengthier sentence. (Thanks to Dan Bunting for that example).

Nonsense.

Another Private Members Bill sponsored by Phillip Bone MP is the Young Offenders (Parental Responsibility) Bill. You can read it here. Again, it won’t take long.

If enacted it would basically mean that where a child or young person commits an offence, their parents are responsible for it. Doesn’t sound too bad you say? The effect would be that where a child commits an offence, but isn’t charged or subjected to a penalty (the meaning of which is unclear), the person(s) with parental responsibility for the child also commit and offence and are liable for the same punishment as the child would have been.

Sound fair?

The purpose of this post was not to rehash Matthew’s excellent blog but to highlight the fact that some of the people who we pay £65,000 per year (plus expenses) to represent us are wasting public time and money on idiotic proposals which will never make it onto the statute book.

If any readers live in Mr Hollobone’s constituency, and you agree with Matthew’s conclusion, and our concerns, about Mr Hollobone’s Bills and the waste of time and money he is responsible for, why not write him a letter. We’d be happy to publish it (and any reply you received).

Either way, let us know your thoughts.

Follow Matthew on Twitter @BarristerBlogger

Attorney-General in further warning on contempt

twitter jail

Does the Attorney General read the blog? We posted about our reasons for not covering the Lee Rigby case yesterday. This follows a week where there were issues surrounding the naming of the co-defendants in the Ian Watkins case, and James Baines narrowly avoided an immediate custodial sentence for posting photographs purportedly of the killers of James Bulger.

This morning (4th December 2013) the A-G, Dominic Grieve QC went on the news to announce that he would be publishing guidance the general public on using twitter (and other social media) whilst a trial is ongoing.

It is generally a matter of common sense, and as a general rule, if there’s a doubt about whether you should be tweeting, then don’t. We will review the guidelines when they are published.

Oompa Loompa freed on appeal

We previously covered the case of Louis Gelinas and Matthew Wright who admitted causing an affray in Norwich town centre whilst dressed as Oompa Loompas (hopefully they got a change of clothes before being produced at Court for their first appearance).

Mr Gelinas was later sentenced to a Community Order, but the unfortunate Mr Wright was sentenced to 10 months youth custody. The attack appeared to have been triggered by what the victims were wearing (which was noted as being somewhat ironic by the prosecutor).

But good news came for Mr Wright on 3rd December 2013. His appeal against the sentence was allowed and the sentence reduced to 4 months. Due to the passage of time since the sentence, he was released from the Court of Appeal.

We do not have the judgment, but it actually sounds like it could have some interesting elements in it (over and above the obvious). The Court of Appeal accepted that “the incident was not part of a “significant local problem”. This was mentioned because of the sentencing judge’s  “decision to pass a deterrent sentence, on the basis that the brawl was typical of “a local problem which required a local solution“.

A Judge is entitled to go above the guidelines because of a specific set of problems in the local area, and the Court will generally not go behind the view of a judge who, after all, has that local knowledge. Here, it seems on the face of it that the Court of Appeal was correct in saying that this sort of violence is not normal for Norfolk but not tolerated elsewhere. Leaving aside the obvious factor of the defendant’s attire.

Nathan Flynn pleads guilty to murdering his grandmother

Flynn

On 3rd December 2013 Nathan Flynn, a twenty six year old man, pleaded guilty to murdering Louisa Denby (his grandmother), as well as attempting to murder Jason D’Arcy, a nine year old boy seemingly unknown to him.

On 30th June 2013 Mr Flynn attacked his grandmother with a knife in a ‘brutal and frenzied attack‘ at her home. The next day he tried to ‘entice an eight-year-old girl from her garden‘ before allegedly attacking a man with an iron bar (although we have to be careful with this as it seems that the charges relating to this have been dropped). Later on the 1st July he stabbed Jason in the arm and chest. It seems that this attack was also near-fatal and he was lucky to survive.

The motive for all Mr Flynn’s actions are unclear. The case has been adjourned to the 18th December for sentence, and we will return to it then.

The only sentence that can be passed is one of life imprisonment. The critical question will be what tariff is imposed (see the link for details of how this will be calculated). The key questions will be why Mr Flynn attacked his grandmother and whether this was pre-meditated. If, as seems likely from other news sources, the argument started at her house, then it may be that the appropriate starting point is 15 years.

This will be increased substantially to reflect the savage attack as well as the other offences. Credit for the plea of guilty will of course be given. Although this will reduce the sentence, it is likely that the tariff will be longer than 15 years because of the other factors.

The Lee Rigby Case

lee rigby

The trial of Michael Adebolajo (who wishes to be known in Court as Mujaahid Abu Hamza) and Michael Adebowale (who wishes to be known as Ismail Ibn Abdullah), the two people alleged to have murdered Fusilier Lee Rigby started on 29th November 2013 at the Old Bailey. Fusilier Rigby died on 22nd May this  year.

It is expected that the jury will be sent out to consider their verdicts before Christmas (but it may be in the new year, depending on how quickly the trial progresses).

The story has been well documented in the newspapers and we have been asked why we are not covering it (either in general, or in relation to specific questions).

It is not because it is interesting, but there are obviously strong rules on what can and cannot be said during a trial. For that reason, we will wait until the jury has delivered its verdict before discussing it.