Ricky Fuller, 29 and Aaron Ellwood, 31 were charged with section 18, GBH with intent. It is one of the most serious of the offences against the person and the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.
The full facts can be seen in the Daily Mail article. In essence, Fuller and his friend ambushed two men who were waiting for a taxi. They were knocked unconscious and kicked whilst they were on the floor. The victim, who worked with one of the men who was knocked unconscious, chased Fuller and his friend. Upon reaching an alley way nearby, Fuller turned and attacked the victim. He punched him, smashing his jaw in two places. The victim needed extensive facial reconstructive surgery as a result.
It appears that Fuller offered a plea to section 20 GBH/wounding (importantly without intent)– a lesser offence than the section 18 offence. The maximum for section 20 is 5 years imprisonment, with the difference between the two essentially being the intention to cause really serious harm.
The CPS accepted that plea and Fuller fell to be sentenced for the section 20 offence. The maximum sentence was therefore 5 years and not life.
HHJ Coleman sentenced Fuller to 3 years’ imprisonment. The guidelines for section 20 are here at page 8.
The top category – category 1 – has a starting point of 3 years. The Judge must have raised that starting point to something in the region of 4 to 4.5 years. He then will have reduced that for the guilty plea.
The Judge said:
‘I go as far as to say that this misjudgement in the prosecutorial process I believe has led to a serious miscarriage of justice in that two men who should have been tried for causing GBH with intent were allowed to plead guilty to lesser charges which did not reflect their culpability.’
The CPS denied there had been any misjudgement and said they would be writing to the Judge about his comments.
Should the CPS have acted differently?
The Victims’ Code 2013 states at para 2.12:
The CPS must inform victims of and give reasons for decisions to:
• discontinue a charge and proceed on another;
• substantially alter a charge;
• discontinue all proceedings; or
• offer no evidence in all proceedings.
There is no information as to whether the victim was consulted or informed of the reasons to accept the section 20 plea.
We are unable to say much, as the facts are somewhat sparse. However, one would have expected the victim to have been informed of the view of the CPS that a section 20 plea should be accepted.
Based on the information in the article, section 20 doesn’t really seem appropriate. Additionally, there could have been a trial on the section 18 charge with section 20 as an alternative, if the jury weren’t sure that there was an intention to cause really serious injury.
If the maximum sentence was 5 years, why didn’t the judge give him 5 years? Well there are rules about this sort of thing. Where a judge considers the maximum sentence for an offence inadequate, they may do their best to pass a high sentence, but in doing so are often careful to avoid an appeal. In this case, a sentence of 5 years would have been reduced on appeal due to the guilty plea and any other mitigation available.
Perhaps we will hear more about the correspondence between the CPS and the Judge over the coming weeks.