Monthly Archives: February 2014

Joanna Dennehy and accomplices sentenced – another whole life order

Joanna Dennehy, Gary Stretch and Leslie Layton

Introduction 

We covered the trials of the two people (Garry Richards and Leslie Layton) who were convicted on 12th February 2014 of various offences relating to assistance given to Joanna Dennehy.

The offences

Dennehy: Murder x 3, attempted murder x 2

Gary Stretch: Preventing lawful burial x 3, attempted murder x 2

Leslie Layton: Preventing lawful burial x 3

Robert Moore: Assisting an offender

Facts of the offending

The first murder was Lukasz Slaboszewski. He was Ms Dennehy’s landlord and was stabbed to death by her on 19th March 2013. His body was placed in a wheelie bin in farmland. Mr Richards was convicted of helping to move the body (Preventing a Lawful Burial)

John Chapman (Ms Dennehy’s boss) was stabbed to death on 29th March and his body dumped in the countryside by Ms Dennehy with the assistance of Mr Richards and Mr Layton (Preventing a Lawful Burial).

Ms Dennehy’s housemate, Kevin Lee, was killed on 29th March and his body found in farmland the next day. Again it seems that Mr Richards and Mr Layton assisted with moving the body. This was the first to be discovered and sparked the investigation.

It seems that Ms Dennehy was quickly linked to the murder and it was publicised that she was wanted for questioning in connection with the murder of Mr Lee. Ms Dennehy and Mr Richards were put up for the night by Mr Moore who was later to lie to the police about this and maintained contact with Ms Dennehy. This founded the charge of Assisting an Offender against Mr Moore.

Ms Dennehy and Mr Richards went to Hertfordshire where, on 2nd April, Ms Dennehy got out of the car that was being driven by Mr Richards and stabbed Robin Bereza, a man who was out walking his dog. He was left for dead. 15 minutes later another random victim, John Rogers, another dog walker, was selected (this time by Mr Richards). Ms Dennehy stabbed him several times and left him, taking his dog with her. They were both arrested shortly afterwards. These were the charges of attempted murder that Ms Dennehy pleaded guilty to and Mr Richards was convicted.

Mr Layton was also convicted of perverting the course of justice. It is not clear what this relates to.

Mr Moore has never been in trouble before. The other three have various different sets of previous offending, but nothing on this league.

It is perhaps clear that Ms Dehenny was the prime mover behind all the offending. This was in fact confirmed by her in mitigation. She had written a letter a letter to the Judge where it appear she apologised for the two random stabbings, but not the three murders.

(much of the material here is from Sally Chidzoy and links provided). The Guardian also has some good background.

Offences and sentences

Joanna Dennehy :

  • Murder of Lucasz Slaboszewski
  • Murder of John Chapman 
  • Murder of Kevin Lee
  • Attempted murder of Robin Bereza
  • Attempted murder of John Rogers

Life sentence (whole life order)

Gary Stretch:

  • Preventing the lawful burial of Lucasz Slaboszewski –
  • Preventing the lawful burial of John Chapman –
  • Preventing the lawful burial of Kevin Lee –
  • Attempted murder of Robin Bereza –
  • Attempted murder of John Rogers –

Life with 19-year minimum term

According to Fiona Hamilton of The Times, Stretch said “thank you very much”, shrugged is shoulders and walked to cells with hands in his pockets after being sentenced.

Leslie Layton :

14 years

Robert Moore :

  • Assisting an offender –

3 years

Judge’s remarks

About Dennehy:

“You have written to me saying you feel no remorse for the murders”

“You are a cruel, calculating, selfish and manipulative serial killer”.

She killed to “gratify your own sadistic lust for blood”

‘Each of the three murders involved pre-planning and one was sexual/sadistic’ [paraphrased]

The Judge called Dennehy “a pathological liar”

The sentencing remarks are available here.

Comment

We’ll post a comment about the lengths of the sentences once we have been able to digest the sentencing remarks. In terms of the whole life order for Dennehy, it was always on the cards and would have been a surprise if the sentence was a lengthy minimum term (which practically could not have been much more than 40 years.)

We commented on 13th February, slightly tongue in cheek, that the whole life tariff given to Anwar Rosser could be the last whole life tariff given by the British courts. After the Court of Appeal’s judgment re the legality of whole life tariffs, we can expect to see some more (at least until they are challenged in Europe again!).

Advertisements

Alan Greaves murder – Johnathan Bowling’s appeal dismissed

20140227-222010.jpg

Last year we looked at the senseless murder of Alan Greaves and the 25 year tariff handed down to Johnathan Bowling as a result.

We like to try and follow up cases where possible, so this is to say that we found out on 27th February 2014 that Mr Bowling has lost his appeal against the length of the sentence.

There was a hearing in open court, but The Lord Chief Justice is reported as saying that the application had no merit, so it appears that the paper application had already been turned down by the Single Judge (see our fact sheet on appeals for more information).

We said “It is likely that there will be an appeal, but Mr Bowling shouldn’t get his hopes up too much“. Whilst the outcome was correct it seems that the reasoning of the judge was different. The sentencing judge took a starting point of 30 years before giving full credit for the plea if guilty. We went a different route, but with the same outcome.

At the moment, the transcript is not available.

Lee Rigby’s murderers jailed for life

lee rigby

Introduction

Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22 were convicted of the murder of Lee Rigby last year. Sentence was adjourned to allow for the Court of Appeal to give their judgment on whether whole life tariffs were lawful (spoiler – they are).

Prediction should generally only be undertaken with the benefit of hindsight. Earlier today (26th February 2014 – the day of the sentence) I tweeted :

Was I right?

 

Sentence

Well, in fairness to myself, that did include a question mark. Sweeney J sentencing remarks have been published and are well worth a read (I don’t know if it’s the type of cases he deals with, or something else, but he is particularly good at getting these out).

The mandatory sentence is life imprisonment, the real question was the tariff. Sweeney J passed the following:

  • Michael Adebolajo – whole life
  • Michael Adebowale – 45 years

This was a ‘terrorist’ murder, and one committed for “the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause“. This is clearly correct and the Judge took a whole life tariff as a starting point. In relation to Mr Adebolajo, there was no reason to move away from that and so a whole life tariff was imposed. With Mr Adebowale, the Judge said that “the combination of your lesser role, your age and your pre-existing and continuing mental condition mean that it is not appropriate in your case to impose a whole life term“. 

Nonetheless an extremely long tariff was required. Mr Adebowale will not be eligible for release until he is 67. In reality, it will be a lot longer before he is out.

 

Comment

Given that whole life tariffs are lawful, it is not surprising that Mr Adebolajo received one. He is currently trying to appeal his conviction and will certainly add an appeal against sentence (he has literally nothing to lose). In the current political climate I doubt that he will get too far.

One aspect of whole life tariffs that hasn’t featured much in our look at the area is the point that someone on a whole life tariff has no incentive to behave in prison. Hopefully Mr Adebolajo will not put that to the test.

As for Mr Adebowale? The Judge heard the trial and is the best position to judge his culpability in my view and it is hard to say that he got it wrong. However, this sentence seems more of a candidate for an Attorney-General’s Reference than Mr McGloughlin as at least Mr Adebowale has a chance of getting out of prison alive. It is hard to say that the sentence is unduly lenient, but then neither was Mr McGloughlin, so we will see.

It may well be that the whole life tariff for Mr Adebolajo will take any public ‘heat’ off the other sentence and this will be left as is. It is (again in my view) a typically clear and well-written sentencing remarks from this Judg.

A copper’s view of a typical Friday night – Part IV

(c) Flickr / Lee J Haywood

(c) Flickr / Lee J Haywood

If the door staff find someone in possession of drugs as they enter a pub or club, they will detain that person until Police arrive.  In these cases it is necessary to obtain a statement from the door staff.  To speed this process up, we carry pro-forma statements which is just a case of “fill in the blanks”.  This is required to ensure that there is a chain of custody for the suspected drugs.  A more detailed statement can be compiled later on should this be required.

Whilst I prepare the file, the radio does not stop.  There are at least three domestic disputes, two people have turned up in hospital with nasty wounds claiming they have been assaulted and an Officer saw what he believed to be an attempted car thief who made off on seeing the Police car.  Despite 3 patrol cars and a passing dog unit looking for him, the suspected thief disappeared without a trace.  Maybe he was innocent I will never know, all I do know is that there were no thefts from cars that night.

When doing paperwork such as this, I only leave the Station if I have to.  My aim is to get it done as quickly as possible and then get back out on the streets but tonight was different.  I was half way through the file when I heard the words no Police Officer wants to hear on the radio: “Assistance”.

When using the radio you might ask for backup, help, additional officers but you never use the word “assistance”.  That word means that you are deep in the brown stuff and need help from any and everybody there and then.  No matter what you are doing, when you hear that word you jump into the nearest available transport (sometimes 4 or 5 in a single car) and get to where you are needed as quick as is humanly possible.

Tonight, one of the domestic disputes turned very nasty when a bodybuilder who had been drinking and taking copious amounts of cocaine decided that he did not want Police Officers in his house.  He began to smash up the house and attack the officers.  Eventually it took five of us, CS gas and batons to restrain him.  He barely had a scratch on him but two Officers ended up in hospital, one with cuts and bruises, the other with a suspected broken nose.

Just as I finish the file around 5:45 I receive a call from the Custody Sergeant telling me that my prisoner was ready to be charged.  I type the “charge wording” into the computer and head down to the custody suite as the Detention Officer is bringing my prisoner from his cell.

As the prisoner is now sober, the Custody Sergeant reads him his rights again and again asks if he would like a solicitor.  This time he says that he doesn’t.  Believe it or not but no one really wants to hear this right now.  If he had said yes, a phone call would have been made to the solicitor of his choice and he would have received advice over the phone which would have been to make no comment to charge and that the solicitor would see him in Court.

As he had now changed his mind about wanting a solicitor, the Custody Sergeant would need to record the reasons for this change of mind on the Custody Record.  The prisoner then needs to sign this and then the Duty Inspector needs to speak to the prisoner to confirm again that he had changed his mind himself and that he had not been coerced into this change.  This would also be recorded on the Custody Record.  This delays things by about 25 minutes as the Duty Inspector has to return to the station from wherever she was at the time.

After all of this was done I cautioned him and charged him with acting in a disorderly manner whilst he was drunk in a public place.  He made no comment to being charged and then it is time to take his fingerprints, photographs and a DNA sample.

On a quiet night, the Detention Officers would do this for me but with at least 10 people waiting in the cells to be charged, it was down to me.  Fingerprints are now taken electronically using a form of scanner.  Whilst it is cleaner than using ink and paper, it takes a long time as each print is analysed by the computer to ensure that it is of a high enough standard.  The computer is very fussy.

After the fingerprints are taken, it is time to take photographs of the now charged person.  A minimum of 3 photos are required: one face on, one looking to the right and one looking to the left.  If the person has any obvious, visible scars, marks or tattoos, photographs need to be taken of these as well.  Even though he had had his photographs last taken about a month ago, a new set was required just in case he had changed his appearance or hairstyle (he hadn’t).

Finally, it is time to take a DNA sample.  Luckily for me, his DNA had already been entered onto the system.  Otherwise I would have to take a swab from the inside of each cheek, seal the samples and after completing his details on the sample bag I would place them in the freezer ready to be taken to the lab.

It is now 6:25am which gives me just enough time to grab a quick cup of tea and drive to the nearest garage to fill my car up ready for the day shift before I hand my keys over and head home.

My shift was officially 9 hours (10pm – 7am).  I really started work at 9:40pm and left just after 7.  For some reason unknown to anyone, the day shift starts at 7 so there is no crossover period.  Out of that nearly 9½ hours I worked I was on the streets for less than 3 hours.  The rest of the time I was dealing with one simple drunk and disorderly case.

Silk (Series 3, Episode 1)

Silk_(TV_series) 1

Introduction

Forget Law and Order UK, everyone’s favourite legal drama Silk is back (24th February 2014) to kick off the third series. Here’s a legal look at it (written up as the programme was airing, so apologies if it’s a bit disjointed).

 

Plot

Series 3 kicks off with an appeal being dismissed by the Court of Appeal. There’s then a party (for Clive becoming a QC) in the Royal Courts of Justice at which Martha and Clive begin to get it on in what looks likes Courtroom 7, before Martha puts a damper on it by passing out.

Then, it all gets a bit more serious. Martha’s head of chambers, Alex Cowdrey QC, has a problem. His son has been nicked for attacking a copper at a demonstration and so half of Chambers run down to the police station.

The police officer has died and so David is up for murder. For some reason both Martha and Clive are representing him (two silks is pretty good going) and they go off for a bail application. The prosecutor is deeply unpleasant and winds Martha up. Clive decides not to go to Manchester where he’s been offered a four month fraud so he can help out.

So, we move to the trial. The prosecutor is still being quite slippery but Martha’s going for the partial confession that David has made. She smells corruption. And a breach of PACE. And then the clerks have got some evidence that the police officers have been talking overnight and going to the home of the widow when they shouldn’t have done.

Next up is Inspector Wright who is pretty bullish. But it all falls apart when it turns out that he has added words to his notebook during the trial. Worse still for the prosecution, their star witness admits that he is giving evidence because the police promised to stop harassing his brother. He does stick to his guns that David was the aggressor.

It’s 50-50 as Martha says. But then David’s girlfriend refuses to give evidence because she says David was actually being aggressive. And, as Martha finds out, it turns out that David is schizophrenic and was hearing voices at the demonstration.

Cue ethical dilemma. Despite the lawyers around her cautioning her to raise the mental health issues and get a new trial, she goes ahead and makes a closing speech that is sailing very close to the wind ethically.

The jury come back and we find out that (1) David was only up for Manslaughter and (2) The jury have acquitted him of that.

Meanwhile, there is a side plot that involves a realistic (if dramatised) tension in the clerks room between the old school Billy and the new world of Practice Managers.

 

 

Review

Silk is top quality drama. Well written, well constructed and well acted. But frankly you wouldn’t come to us for a drama review, so we won’t carry on too much more pretending to be TV critics. It’s generally very accurate (as far as legal dramas go) and so when we set out the following factual issues, don’t be too critical of us :

 

 A couple of points:

  • An appeal is dismissed not refused (I know, that makes us sound a little bit anal).
  • The Custody Sergeant points out that barristers don’t go to the police station. This is actually no longer the case (plenty do) but whilst the father would be there as an appropriate adult (to look after his interests if he is under 18 – it’s a bit unclear) Martha and Billy wouldn’t be allowed in.
  • It’s pretty unlikely that Martha would be independent enough to represent her head of Chambers son (although not a complete given). Most likely the prosecution and defence would get lawyers in from out of London)
  • Martha and Clive wouldn’t be interviewing potential witness like David’s girlfriend. This is, however, a TV staple and makes for good viewing. Without that it would be a bit disjointed.
  • Someone such as David (young boy with no previous convictions) would probably get bail, even though this is a murder/manslaughter
  • The questioning of Inspector Wright may have been stopped by the Judge as it got a little bit heated
  • The trial would probably not have carried on once David’s mental health issues became clear (that’s a big one, but a bit of dramatic licence is needed)

 

Conclusion

A great opener to the third series. There are a couple of inaccuracies, but partly because of the strength of the writing and acting, they do not disturb a lawyer’s enjoyment of the show.

See you next Monday …

Silk_(BBC_One) 2

Woman, 23, cooked kitten in microwave as punishment for attacking goldfish

Image from Daily Mail

Image from Daily Mail

In the Daily Mail on Friday 21 February 2014, it was reported that unemployed Laura Cunliffe, 23 from Barnsley, pleaded guilty at Barnsley Magistrates’ Court to causing unnecessary suffering of an animal.

The offence

Animal Welfare Act 2006 s 4 creates the offence of causing unnecessary suffering. It is a summary only offence meaning it can only be tried in a Magistrates’ Court. The maximum sentence is 6 months and/or a £20,000 fine.

 [As an aside, I find it deeply unsatisfactory that a person could torture and kill an animal and only find themselves in the Magistrates’ court with a maximum 4 month sentence after a guilty plea.]

Facts

The Mail’s article, which contains some disturbing pictures, can be seen here.

She had a 4 month old kitten – Mowgli.

Mowgli reportedly ‘attacked’ Ms Cunliffe’s goldfish. Ms Cunliffe then appears to have placed Mowgli into the microwave and set it to cook for 5 minutes.

Mowgli reportedly was still alive when Ms Cunliffe removed him from the microwave, but was struggling to breathe. Ms Cunliffe then took Mowgli to a relatives house. He died some 90 minutes after Ms Cunliffe removed him from the microwave.

RSPCA

The prosecution was brought by the RSPCA, who reportedly said: ‘The main reason the RSPCA  took this case in order to achieve disqualifications in order to protect animals and prevent further suffer in the future.’

The deputy chief inspector said: ‘It is particularly horrendous because of the period of suffering for the kitten which would have been awful.’

She said that the exposure to the radiation in the microwave would have cooked the animal’s internal organs.

She said: ‘It is an horrific case in the fact that the death of the cat would have been prolonged and it is unimaginable what it would have gone through taking some time to die.

Sentence

Sentencing will take place on 13 March 2014.

Her defence advocate reportedly said that Ms Cunliffe had suffered from psychosis and depression, having been detained under Mental Health legislation ‘several times’.

There is a power to disqualify Ms Cunliffe from owning or keeping etc. animals under Protection of Animals Act 1911 s 2. As stated above, there is a maximum of a £20,000 fine but as Ms Cunliffe is unemployed – and when imposing a fine a court must consider the defendant’s means – it seems unlikely that this would make an effective or appropiate punishment.

There are guidelines which apply to this offence. See numbered page 22 [40 of the PDF]. There are three categories and arguably this offences does not neatly fall into any of them.

The bottom category describes ‘One impulsive act causing little or no injury’ which this is clearly not.

The middle category describes: Several incidents of deliberate ill-treatment/frightening animal(s); medium term neglect’ which doesn’t seem to fit either.

The top category describes: ‘Attempt to kill/torture; animal baiting/conducting or permitting cock-fighting etc.; prolonged neglect’ which on balance isn’t a perfect match either, as one presumes Ms Cunliffe pleaded guilty on the basis that she did not intend to kill or torture the animal.

There are certainly aggravating features in that a) the incident was prolonged, b) there was the use of the microwave to inflict the pain and c) of course that the kitten died.

Mitigation, as listed above, seems to be in the form of Ms Cunliffe’s mental state.

We’ll follow this up when she is sentenced.

Naeem Mehmood jailed for Rotherham Machete Murder

_73131151_naeemmehmood

Facts

On 15th October 2013 Naeem Mehmood went to the shop ran by his boss, Parvaiz Iqbal. There, for reasons unknown, Mr Mehmood stabbed Mr Iqbal with a knife 51 times, leaving him dead. Saeed Hussain, a colleague, was stabbed once when he tried to help.

After that, Mr Mehmood went on a ‘rampage through Rotherham’. He smashed car windows and threatened passers by with a machete that he had picked up from the shop. Fortunately, nobody else was attacked before Mr Mehmood was persuaded to surrender himself by a police officer.

He pleaded guilty to murder (as well as wounding Mr Hussain) and was sentenced on 21st February 2014 to life imprisonment. Regular readers will know that that is a mandatory sentence and the more interesting question is what the tariff will be.

In this case, the tariff was set at 27 years.

Sentence

In sentencing, the Judge said that “the seriousness of this offence was particularly high” and took a starting point of 30 years. It is not immediately clear why this would be the case, but reading the sentencing remarks, it was  the ferocity of the attack that lead the Judge put it in this category. 

We know that the trial was scheduled for March, so whilst this is not a plea at the earliest opportunity, it is well in advance of the trial, so the credit for this plea would have been in the range of 10-15% (capped at 5 years). This would give a starting point of 31-32 years.

The increase from a 30 year starting point could be explained by the other offences committed. This does seem, in total, rather high. On the face of it the starting point was 15 years, but strongly aggravated by the savage nature of the killing and the attack on Mr Hussain, before credit for a plea. We would have thought a tariff more in the region of 20-22 years would have been imposed.

It seemed from the news reports that both the knife and machete were in the shop and not brought to the scene by Mr Mehmood, but his lawyers appears to have suggested that the knife was taken there and so the starting point should be 25 years. The higher starting point ‘takes in’ many of the aggravating features, so this would still give a tariff of 23-24 years rather than the one imposed. 

The Judge stated that there was “no evidence of any mental difficulties which might explain your conduct” which is perhaps surprising given the nature of the attack.

We would expect an appeal against the sentence and will keep an eye out for it.