Monthly Archives: February 2014

Joanna Dennehy and accomplices sentenced – another whole life order

Joanna Dennehy, Gary Stretch and Leslie Layton


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.


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!).

Alan Greaves murder – Johnathan Bowling’s appeal dismissed


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


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?



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.



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


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).



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.




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)



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.]


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.


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.


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



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.


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.

Graham Ovenden – Attorney-General’s reference finally published



We covered the case of Graham Ovenden when he had his sentence increased by the Court of Appeal on 9th October 2013. We had to wait a long time for the judgment, but, for reasons which are not clear, it was published on 7th February 2014. At the end of our piece last year, after commenting that it seemed to be much higher than we would expect, we said:

So – why is it so much higher? We will have to see the judgment to see what information the Court of Appeal had that we did not. It is to be hoped that this judgment (as well as that relating to Neil Wilson) actually gives an explanation for the increase (something which, sadly, the Stuart Hall judgment did not).

So was it worth the wait?

Facts of the offending                        

The allegations were all committed between 1972 and 1987. Mr Ovenden had a trial and was convicted on Counts 1-2, 7-8 and 10-12 :

  1. Taking a photo of SM (about 10 years old) whilst she was naked with sticky tape over her eyes
  2. Taking a photo of SM (age unknown) whilst she was naked lying on a beach
  3. CM – Acquitted
  4. Became Count 10
  5. Became Count 11
  6. Became Count 12
  7. JB (aged 6) was having a bath with Mr Ovenden’s daughter when he came into the bathroom naked with an erection and got into the bath and asked his daughter to wash his penis (which she did). Mr Ovenden came back and took photographs of them wrapped in a towel
  8. Mr Ovenden approached JB (then aged 10) from behind and cupped her breasts saying “come on, let’s have a feel” – this was the indecent assault
  9. Acquitted
  10. Photograph of EE in state of undress
  11. Photograph of EE in state of undress
  12. Photograph of EE in state of undress


The maximum sentence for all of the offences was 2 years imprisonment. Mr Ovenden was sentenced by the trial Judge to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years. These were all concurrent.

These are all historic offences (we have a factsheet on how these offences are dealt with by the Courts).

What would he have got now?

Much more. Much more than the maximum. The starting point would be the Sexual Offences Sentencing Guidelines. Although it is not clear what happened with Count 7, this would the sort of offence that he would have got 3 to 5 years on.

The remaining offences were a lot less serious. The photographs would not be sexual activity and would be charged under the Protection of Children Act 1978. This would have probably resulted in a non-custodial sentence given the levels involved. Perhaps a sentence of 6 months or so on Count 1. The starting point for the Sexual Assault would be 6 months (although the actual sentence may well be lower).

If these offences were committed today, we would expect perhaps a total sentence of about 4-5 years.

Why was he charged with indecency with a child rather than indecent images?

Dunno. This is an interesting question. The maximum sentence for ‘making’ indecent images was (at the time) 3 years. There may be some procedural problem that is not immediately apparent (the consent of the DPP is needed, but that would hardly have been an obstacle), but absent such a problem, the only thing that springs to mind is that the photographs weren’t considered to be indecent.  This does not sit easily with the sentence of 9 months later passed.

Court of Appeal judgment

The meat of the reasons given by the Court are at paras 63-70. The aggravating and mitigating (mainly aggravating in fairness) features were identified. In para 69, rather than analysing whether the sentence was unduly lenient, the Court considers what would be the appropriate sentence (18 months on Count 7, consecutive to 9 months for the photograph counts and 6 months concurrent for Count 8).

It is also stated (without reasons) that “there is no basis, and there was no basis, for suspending the sentence”.

Against that backdrop, the Court concluded that the sentence was unduly lenient and increased it as set out above.


There are several points in the judgment that are unsatisfactory :

(1) Reasons

What is notable by its absence (in common with the Hall and Wilson judgments) is any real reference to the guidelines or previous authorities. Particularly in a case where the sentence that was imposed is higher than the maximum sentence, it is unfortunate that this was not done.

(2) Test for a Suspended Sentence

At para 61 it was noted that “Her Majesty’s Attorney General has submitted that the sentence was unduly lenient. The judge failed to have regard to the terms of the statute in that exceptional circumstances were required before a sentence could be suspended”.

The need for ‘exceptional circumstances’ was the test under the law prior to the Criminal Justice Act 2003. Whilst those sentences were preserved, currently (under LASPO) a sentence of up to 2 years can be suspended without exceptional circumstances. If that is right, then it is unfortunate that this submission was not corrected by the Court.

So, what is the test for whether a sentence should be suspended? The answer is that there is not one. Nearly ten years after the implementation of the 2003 Act it is surprising that this should be so. There are Sentencing Guidelines on 2003 Act sentences, but nothing is said about when a sentence should be suspended. Given the numerous opportunities of the Court of Appeal to address this, it is presumably a considered decision not to give such advice. This is, in fairness, understandable (even if it is unhelpful for practitioners).

(3) Deference to the trial Judge

At para 62 the Court referred to “the submissions of Mr Quinlan who has essentially said that the judge was in the best position to have judged the applicant; that he had been right to take into account his age and the fact that these offences were committed such a long time ago; and the fact that the applicant no longer posed a risk to children.”

An advocate who appears in the Court of Appeal will very often find themselves on the end of the mantra ‘the trial Judge heard the case, they’re in the best place to know’ when an appeal is being dismissed. Sometimes this is fair enough (Judges get things wrong after all), but here no explanation has been given as to what it was about this case that meant the usual rule did not apply. This is all the more significant given that the sentence was passed after a trial where the Judge would have had plenty of opportunity to assess Mr Ovenden.

(4) Consecutive sentences

Judges frequently pass consecutive sentences. Issues can be raised where consecutive sentences take the total sentence over the maximum for any individual offending (as the Court of Appeal did here).

The cases of Ralphs [2009] EWCA Crim 2555 and H [2011] EWCA Crim 2753 are good on this. In the latter the Court said (para 127) “We are unpersuaded that it is appropriate for consecutive terms of imprisonment to be imposed as a way of compensating for what the court believes to be an inadequacy in its sentencing powers” (in fairness, before doing just that).

In Mr Ovenden’s case there were legitimate reasons for making some of the sentences consecutive. Nonetheless, has the Court in his case fallen into this trap?

This case shows some of the problems of sentencing historic offences. In reality, had Mr Ovenden been tried and convicted of those offences at the time then he would probably have been fined for all of them apart from Count 7 (and possibly Count 8 with a harsh judge). Even then, if this had been 1984 rather than 2014 if he had gone to prison, it would have been for less than two years in total. Given that the maximum sentences for some of these offences were so woefully inadequate, it is very easy to pass a sentence too high. It would have been helpful for the Court of Appeal to have given some more of their reasoning behind their decision.

(5) Double jeopardy

In this judgment, (as in Hall and Wilson) there is again no reference to double jeopardy which is a surprising admission. It may be that double jeopardy is going out of fashion, but if this is so, it should be stated clearly.


The behaviour of Mr Ovenden was disgraceful. On the verdict of the jury he was guilty of serious sexual offending. But that does not relieve us, as a society, of doing him justice. Justice here (as in all cases) means not just that he is punished for his offending, but he is punished justly – he gets no less certainly, but also no more, than the law states is the right sentence.

Here, the Court of Appeal have said that the experienced Judge (HHJ Cottle has been a Crown Court Judge since 1993) got it wrong on a massive scale. After double jeopardy this would suggest the least possible sentence the Judge could have passed was about 2 years 9 months – nearly three times longer than was originally given (and immediate rather than suspended).

Of course there are cases where something goes wrong and when the Court of Appeal needs to step in (if anything, many people think that they are too shy of interfering), but when this happens everyone involved (and everyone who may be involved in future cases) is entitled to know what went wrong and why. Here, we are left at a real loss as to the reasoning of the Court on several key issues. It may be that this was all addressed in the written submissions and the arguments, but if that is correct then it is all the more reason for publishing these.

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

(c) Flickr / Lee J Haywood

(c) Flickr / Lee J Haywood

It’s now 11:45pm and I have a decision to make.  Before my shift finishes at 7am tomorrow morning I have to complete all of the paperwork for the prosecution of my prisoner and get a copy of the CCTV from the camera control room.  He won’t be ready to charge until about 5:30 or 6 which means I have plenty of time to complete it but it is a Friday night and I can’t spend my whole night dealing with something as minor as a drunk and disorderly case so I am going to have to manage my time well as I would need exceptional circumstances to claim overtime for dealing with this.

We grab a quick cup of tea and head back into the town centre.  The pubs have just kicked out and along with the rest of my shift we try to keep an eye on the taxi queues, nightclub queues and everyone else just milling around trying to decide what to do.  We are lucky in that the town centre is covered by CCTV with operators who are really on the ball.  They call us in on any trouble brewing and usually just the sight of the uniform is enough to settle things down.

In some larger towns, the Council along with the pubs and clubs pay for “Taxi Marshalls” but we are not so lucky.  Taxi Marshalls are usually made up of private security staff (door staff) and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and Police Officers who are working overtime.  These Marshalls keep an eye on taxi queues and the surrounding area in an attempt to prevent fights from occurring.

For a Friday night, things are relatively quiet, there are a couple of arrests for possession of drugs and drunk and disorderly but not as many as usual for a Friday night.

Around 1:30am the call comes out for my shift to “take the cars over”.  As we don’t want to suddenly leave the Town Centre bereft of Officers, this is an act carried out with almost military precision.  The back shift Officers will drive into the town centre and hand over the cars to us while they gather in a van which will take them back to the Station.  For my shift it is a chance to finally warm up after hours patrolling and for the back shift it is a chance to get back and catch up on their paperwork.  It is important that this is done well before 2am when the next wave of revellers will strike.

Fortunately for me, there are no nightclubs with late licenses in the town so the last one closes at 2 and by 2:30 everyone has gone home.  After a quick bite to eat it is nearly 3am and time to start preparing the paperwork for my arrest.

As the only offence was being drunk and disorderly there is no need to interview the prisoner which is one less thing to worry about however, a “file of evidence” has to be completed before I leave and that will still take 1-2 hours at least as long as there are no interruptions.

I will have to complete a number of forms all starting with the letters “MG”.  As this is an “expedited” file for a straightforward offence, I can skip a few of these for now and only worry about them if he pleads not guilty when he appears at Court.

First of all there is the MG3 which is a report to the prosecutor.  Some of this is automatically completed when the person is charged however there are still parts for me to complete.  Already printed in this report are the person’s name, and date of birth, the case unique reference number and the date of the person’s first Court appearance if they have not been remanded in custody.  I add to this details of which forms I have included in the file along with any “points of note” I have for the prosecutor.  In this case I will advise that I have obtained CCTV evidence of the offence which my colleague kindly picked up when I was preparing the file.

The MG4 is the charge sheet which is automatically generated when the person is charged.  Before being charged, the prisoner is cautioned again and after being charged they are asked if they have anything to say.  Usually, there will be no reply to charge as this can be used as evidence against them however there is always one who thinks it is funny to reply “stop hitting me, I’ll admit anything you say” knowing that this will be recorded and read out in Court.  Fortunately, the Courts are wise to this and in the case of a jury trial, Judges have been known to advise the jury to disregard such a comment or refuse to allow this to be read out at all unless there is a genuine belief that the accused has been assaulted.

Next up is the MG5 which is a summary of the case.  As all details of the case are included in the statements of me and my colleague I can skip this.  If I had interviewed him or the case was more complicated details would be added here.

Then comes the dreaded MG6s.  There are 5 different MG6 forms in total appended with the letters A-E.  Each form contains confidential information including Officer’s disciplinary records, lists of sensitive material and details of anything that might assist the defence or undermine the prosecution.  As this should be a straight forward case I only need to complete the MG6A stating that there is no confidential material to disclose at this stage of the case.

As there is no need to request that the prisoner be remanded in custody I do not need to complete the MG7 “Remand Request Form”.

I add the statements (MG11s) completed by myself and my colleague and then add a printout of the prisoner’s previous convictions.  Fortunately I am one of the two people on my shift who can actually print this out.  Although everyone on the shift can view previous convictions, cost issues mean that only a select few on the shift can actually print them out.

Having to print out previous convictions for all of the other 14 people in the cells awaiting charge takes me nearly 45 minutes but it is something my colleagues rely on me for so there is nothing I can do about it.  The only other person who can do this is currently in interview so I also print out the previous convictions of her prisoner too while I am at it.

The final form I complete is the MG20 Further Information Report.  On this report I advise the prosecutor that in addition to the town centre CCTV, CCTV will be available at the club for a further 28 days should it be required and that my colleague has the details of the door staff involved should statements be required from them too.

These statements are not taken as routine for a simple drunk and disorderly case due to the sheer quantity and time it would take.  An average Friday or Saturday night will see somewhere between 15 and 30 arrests for drunkenness offences so as well as employing a “statement taking” team to deal with this, it would mean that there would be no staff left to cover the doors.  Besides, as most of the people involved in these cases plead guilty at Court there is no need for additional statements.

By Officer X

See Part IV soon.

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

(c) Flickr / Lee J Haywood

(c) Flickr / Lee J Haywood

The man doesn’t walk 30 yards before he starts banging on the shutters of a closed bakery.  Although he is not banging hard enough to cause any kind of damage he is shouting extremely loudly that he wants a steak bake and once again, every other word is a profanity.

I know that I can’t let this continue and with a very heavy heart I head towards him knowing that I have no choice but arrest him.  He’s had enough chances and I can’t let him carry on like this.

As I approach him he starts to run or should that be stagger.  He repeatedly turns round and gives me various hand signals accompanied by more abuse until we catch up with him.  As I grab him he makes a half hearted effort to fight me off but in his intoxicated state all he manages to do is fall on the floor in a heap.  As I put him in handcuffs I caution him and tell him that he is under arrest for being drunk and disorderly.  In the state that he is in, I could not count his feeble attempts as “resisting arrest” which is a separate offence entirely.

The next job is to use my radio to call for someone to transport us (me, my colleague and the arrested male) to the Police Station.  Even though the station is only a few minutes walk away it is illegal for me to walk the prisoner there through the streets.

After receiving a lift to the Custody Suite, the booking in process begins.  The first thing I need to do is make a note of the time we arrive at the Police Station as this time plays part of what is known as the “custody clock” which relates to the amount of time someone can spend in custody along with determining when reviews of detention must be carried out.

As it is a Friday night and there are a number of people waiting to be booked in by the Custody Sergeant I have to remain with my prisoner for about 30 minutes.

During this delay I take all items of property from him along with his belt to prevent him from harming himself.  All of these items are recorded and placed into a bag which is sealed with a cable tie which has a unique number on it.  I don’t need to confiscate his shoe laces as his shoes are left outside of his cell.

I ask the prisoner if he would like to sign to confirm that I have placed all of his items in the bag however he tells me in no uncertain terms what I can do with my sheet and the bag.  My colleague countersigns my signature to confirm that I have placed all of the prisoner’s property into the bag and that he refused to sign when asked.

Eventually it is my turn to present the prisoner to the Custody Sergeant.  I outline brief details of the offence to the Custody Sergeant and the prisoner provides his name, address and date of birth (he actually is 23).  Often someone who is drunk or under the influence of drugs refuses to give their details until they have sobered up and until their details are ascertained they are entered into the system as “Uknown Unknwon”.

After answering a series of questions about his health, if he wants anyone informed of his detention and asking if he wants a solicitor (he does) his detention is authorised until he is sober enough to be dealt with.

Once the prisoner has been taken to his cell by a Detention Officer, the Custody Sergeant gives me the bad news.  My prisoner has a long record with a number of convictions including two in the last 6 months for being drunk and disorderly meaning that he is not eligible for a caution or Penalty Notice for Disorder and as such he will need to be charged to attend Court at some point in the future.  I am going to have a lot of paperwork to do before I get back out on the streets properly.

After arresting someone it is best practice to write up my statement as quickly as possible to prevent any accusations of tampering with or creating evidence.  At one time, the practice would have been to write the events up in my pocket note book and then write a statement based on that.  Common sense eventually prevailed and it was decided that writing a statement alone was good enough.

With my colleague we find a space and write up our statements.  Although it was a minor offence, the statements take up nearly 3 pages each.  If we miss anything out of the statements now, we can’t add to them at a later date without serious questions being asked so we have to be as thorough as possible.  You can imagine how long the statement would have been had he actually resisted arrest.

By Officer X

See Part III here.