Author Archives: Sara Williams

About Sara Williams

Barrister specialising in criminal defence.

Convicted rapist has sentence increased by 6 years

Rameez Afzal was convicted in March of raping a 23 year-old woman in a hotel room in Reading. Afzal met his victim in the lobby of a Travelodge at 4am and offered to help her find her friends, whom she had become separated from. He took his victim back to his room and raped her. HHJ Richard Parkes sentenced Afzal to 5 and a half years in prison. However, Afzal was already serving a six-year sentence for supplying Class A drugs, a sentence received in January. The Judge ordered the rape sentence to run concurrently to the drug sentence. The result of this was that Afzal had no additional time to serve for the rape offence. His sentence was referred to the Court of Appeal, on account of it being unduly lenient. The Court of Appeal heard the case yesterday and added a further six years to the sentence.

The guidelines for rape can be found here.

Consecutive or Concurrent?
When an offender is sentenced for two or more offences, the sentencing Judge has discretion as to whether to make the sentences consecutive or concurrent. Where the offences are wholly unrelated, the sentences are often consecutive, however the Judge must take into account the principle of totality in sentencing.

Court of Appeal
We often hear of the Court of Appeal reducing sentences which have been appealed as a result of being manifestly excessive. But the Court upholds an important function in relation to offences which are considered unduly lenient. Those cases can be referred to the Court of Appeal who will look afresh at the mitigating and aggravating features of the offence.

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“Punch 4 Punch” – a game with tragic consequences

For those unfamiliar with the game “Punch 4 Punch”, as we at UK Criminal Law Blog were, we are reliably informed that the game involves players being filmed with one hand tied behind their backs, punching one another.  A seemingly odd form of amusement, the game involves two individuals taking turns to hit one another.  The “loser”, or the player who gives up first, then forced to take a forfeit, usually in the form of an alcoholic beverage.

This rather bizarre game can have tragic consequences, as one family from Bexley have sadly found out.  Tommy Main, a 23 year old father of one, was playing the game with a friend when he was rushed to hospital having collapsed after being punched in the chest.  He later died in hospital.  A 20 year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder and bailed until September for the police to commence investigations.

 

Tommy Main, photo: Evening Standard

Egg-Shell Skull

Whether the game caused Mr Main’s death is yet to be established.  However, it brings to mind the “egg-shell skull” rule.  Essentially, this rule states that those who commit offences must “take their victim as they find them”.  By way of explanation; if set out to steal a handbag, but in doing so you cause your victim to fall the ground, crack their head open and later die, you may be held criminally responsible for their death.  Although you may not have intended to kill, therefore may not be guilty of murder, you may be guilty of manslaughter, as death was the result, albeit an unexpected and unintended one.

Joint Enterprise

Joint enterprise is a legal doctrine enabling the CPS to charge a group of individuals with one offence, if they were allegedly acting together, regardless of what role they played.  For example, the man who sets out to steal the handbag, may ask someone to drive him to and from the scene of the crime, and therefore that driver can also be charged with theft/robbery/manslaughter/murder, in the same manner that the handbag thief is.  In Tommy Main’s case we would speculate that there may well be others involved, who may well face charges under this doctrine.

Sentencing?

If the 20 year-old man referred to above is charged with murder, what sentence might he expect to receive?  The sentencing guidelines for murder are explained here.  If a manslaughter charge is laid, he would be subject to different sentencing considerations and of course the judge would not have to impose a life sentence.  Until the case is investigated thoroughly it is simply too early to say what the outcome will be.  But this post will be updated as and when there are any developments.

Phone Hacking – the trial of Rebekah Brooks et al

Photo from the Guardian

Photo from the Guardian

Introduction

The trial of Rebeka Brooks, Andy Coulson and others began at the Central Criminal Court on 28th October 2013.  On 11th June 2014 the jury retired to consider their verdict.

Verdicts were returned on 24th June 2014. The headline news was the conviction of Andy Coulson on one count, but the acquittal of most other defendants.

On 25th June, the jury were discharged from giving a verdict on Mr Coulson and Clive Goodman on further counts. A decision as to whether there will be a re-trial will be on Monday 30th June 2014. We will keep this post factual until then.

What was the case about?

Phone hacking and the behaviour of the New of the World.  In particular, it was alleged that employees working at the News of the World hacked the phones of a number of individuals in an effort to obtain information about celebrities for publication in the newspaper.  This was a direct invasion of those individual’s right to privacy.  Many of the victims of hacking are celebrities.  Some were members of the public misfortunate enough to hold the same surname as a celebrity.

It was agreed by both the prosecution and the defence that phone hacking went on at the NoTW, the issues for trial are how much, when, and who knew about it.

There were also allegations that the newspaper was involved in paying various officials (primarily police officers for information and destroying evidence to cover their tracks.

Who were the defendants?

Rebekah Brooks – now aged 45, Brooks became the editor of the NoTW at just 30 years of age.

Andy Coulson – now aged 46, Coulson was deputy editor of the NoTW under Brooks’ role as editor.  Later he became editor.  He resigned to work for the Conservative Party, where he became the Prime Minister’s Director of Communication.

Stuart Kuttner – now aged about 73, Kuttner was the managing editor of the NoTW from 1987 to 2009.  He retired in 2009 suffering with ill health.

Clive Goodman – now aged 56.  Started working for the NoTW in 1985, eventually becoming the Royal Editor.  Goodman pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy to hack phones between November 2005 and August 2006, this was on the basis that he conspired with Mulcaire to hack the phones of three individuals.

Cheryl Cater – now aged 50.  Worked for Rebekah Brooks as a Personal Assistant from 1995 until being made redundant a week following Brook’s resignation.

Charlie Brooks – now aged 51.  Husband of Rebekah Brooks.

Mark Hanna – A former head of security at News International.

Ian Edmondson – a formed executive at the News of the World was found unfit to continue with his trial on 13th December 2013 and the jury were discharged from continuing to consider his case.

What were the charges?

Count 1:

Conspiracy to intercept communications

Details : IAN EDMONDSON, REBEKAH BROOKS, ANDREW COULSON and STUART KUTTNER between 3 October 2000 and 9 August 2006 conspired together, and with Glenn Mulcaire, Clive Goodman, Greg Miskiw, Neville Thurlbeck, James Weatherup and persons unknown, to intercept, without lawful authority, communications in the course of their transmission by means of a public telecommunications system, namely mobile phone voicemail messages.

Verdicts

Andy Coulson – Guilty

Rebekah Brooks and Staurt Kuttner – Not Guilty

Count 2:

Conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office

Details :CLIVE GOODMAN and ANDREW COULSON, between the 31st August 2002 and the 31st January 2003, conspired together and with persons unknown to commit misconduct in public office.

Verdicts :

Jury discharged

Count 3

Conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office

Details : CLIVE GOODMAN and ANDREW COULSON, between 31 January 2005 and 3 June 2005, conspired together and with persons unknown to commit misconduct in public office.

Verdicts :

Jury discharged

Count 4

Conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office

Details : REBEKAH BROOKS between 1 January 2004 and 31 January 2012, conspired with John Kay, Fergus Shanahan, Geoffrey Webster and Bettina Jordan-Barber and persons unknown to commit misconduct in public office.

Verdict

Acquitted (Judge found no case to answer)

Count 5

Conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office

Details : REBEKAH BROOKS, between 9 February 2006 and 16 October 2008, conspired with Duncan Larcombe, John Hardy and Claire Hardy and with persons unknown to commit misconduct in public office.

Verdict:

Rebekah Brooks – Not Guilty

Count 6

Conspiracy to Pervert the Course of Justice

Details : REBEKAH BROOKS and CHERYL CARTER between 6 July 2011 and 9 July 2011 conspired together to do a series of acts which had a tendency to and were intended to pervert the course of public justice, namely permanently to remove seven boxes of archived material from the archive of News International.

Verdict:

Rebekah Brooks and Cheryl Carter – Not Guilty

Count 7

Conspiracy to Pervert the Course of Justice

Details : REBEKAH BROOKS, CHARLES BROOKS and MARK HANNA, between the 15 July 2011 and the 19 July 2011 conspired together and with Lee Sandell, David Johnson, Daryl Jorsling, Paul Edwards and persons unknown to do an act or a series of acts which had a tendency to and were intended to pervert the course of justice, namely to conceal documents, computers, and other electronic equipment from officers of the Metropolitan Police Service who were investigating allegations of phone hacking and corruption of public officials in relation to the News of the World and The Sun newspapers.

Verdict:

Rebekah Brooks, Charlie Brooks and Mark Hanna – Not Guilty.

Summary

Andy Coulson was Deputy Editor and then Editor.  SK was Managing Editor and then Editor.  Rebekah Brooks was the Assistant Editor from May 2000 to January 2003.

The Prosecution suggested that the more phone hacking there was, the stronger the inference that those running the paper would have known about it.

Rebekha Brooks argued that only a small amount of phone hacking can be proved during her editorship, and there is no inference that can be properly drawn that she knew anything about it.

Goodman and Evans admitted phone hacking between January 2005 until August 2006.  They were both journalists for NoTW at the time.  Goodman gave evidence of the “industrial scale” of the hacking between 2005 and 2006.

As you can imagine, after an 8 month trial there was a lot of evidence to be considered. It’s perhaps only right in the circumstances to direct you to the Guardian for full coverage.

The Crown Court

Here are UKCriminallawblog we’re not allowed to give legal advice, so please don’t ask for it.  We can only tell you that if you are charged with a criminal offence it’s best to be represented.  You can seek representation from a solicitors firm or a direct access barrister. This may be free of charge.  Contact them to find out.

What we can do is set out some basic facts to let you know what to expect when you’re charged with a criminal offence. This is one such example.

All criminal matters start life in the Magistrates’ Court but many conclude in the Crown Court.

Indictable-only offences, such as robbery, can only be tried in the Crown Court.

Either-way offences (those that can be tried either in the Crown Court or the Magistrates’ Court) that are deemed not suitable for summary trial due to their seriousness, will be sent to the Crown Court.

Alternatively an individual charged with an either-way offence can elect to be tried in the Crown Court.

The first hearing in the Crown Court is a Preliminary Hearing. This is often held a couple of weeks after the first appearance in the Magistrates’ Court. At this hearing the defendant will be afforded full “credit” (a 1/3 reduction in sentence) for entering a guilty plea. If no plea is entered, or if a not guilty plea is entered, trial preparations will begin by the fixing of a timetable. This will include a date for the CPS to serve their evidence on the defendant or his/her legal representatives, a date by which a Defence Statement should be served, a date for the next hearing (the Plea and Case Management Hearing) and, often, a provisional trial listing. If the defendant is in custody and is yet to apply for bail in the Crown Court, he Preliminary Hearing May afford an opportunity to do so.  If a guilty plea is entered the defendant may be sentenced straight away, although often a Pre-Sentence Report is sought, in which case the sentencing hearing will be adjourned. Even if a Pre-Sentence Report is not granted, sentence may be adjourned to a future date.

If no plea is entered at the Preliminary Hearing, or if a not guilty plea is entered, the Plea and Case Management Hearing (“PCMH”) will be the second hearing in the Crown Court. By this hearing the CPS should have served all of the evidence which they seek to rely upon. The defendant will be expected to enter a plea, be it guilty or not guilty. If a guilty plea is entered, the defendant will usually receive 25% credit. If a not guilty plea is entered, final trial preparations take place, such as determining witness requirements and fixing a date for trial. Often Defendants are given a “warned list” for trial, a one or two week duration during which their case should come into the list for trial.  The “lists”, detailing all of the Court hearings/trials for a particular day, will be published on Courtserve the previous afternoon.  Some cases, often those involving young witnesses, particularly serious offences or matters expected to last more than 4 days or so, will have a “fixture”, or a fixed date for trial.

Following the PCMH, a Pre-Trial Review may be fixed, to ensure both parties are ready for the trial.  Often, particularly in straightforward matters, these PTRs are dispensed with.

If there is no PTR, the next date is likely to be for trial.  You can find out more about Crown Court trials here.

 

Five teenagers found guilty of murder

Clockwise from top left: Reese O'Shaughnessy, Andrew Hewitt, Keyfer Dykstra, Corey Hewitt, Joseph McGill

Sean McHugh was just nineteen when he was stabbed to death in a Liverpool launderette last year.

 

Six teenagers were tried for the murder at Liverpool Crown Court.  Reese O’Shaughnessy, 19, alleged to have been the ringleader, and Keyfer Dykstra, 14, were unanimously found guilty.  Andrew Hewitt, 15, Corey Hewitt and Joseph McGill, both 14, but just 13 at the time, were found guilty by a majority of 10-2.  The sixth teenager was found not guilty, and was released having spent seven months in custody awaiting sentence.

The jury spent over 17 hours in deliberations.  The boys, said to be part of a gang known as “The Laneheads”, cornered Mr McHugh and attacked him with knives and what was described as a makeshift “sword stick” almost two feet long.  He escaped, was found in an alleyway and later died in hospital.

Some of the joint-enterprise attack was captured on CCTV, and this, along with text messages sent between the boys, was shown during trial.

The defendants were subject to reporting restrictions throughout the trial, however following the verdicts Judge Goldstone QC, the Senior Resident Circuit Judge at Liverpool Crown Court, lifted the restrictions, saying:

 “I am quite satisfied the criteria for the naming of the defendants is made out. It is in the public interest they be named, not to score points on behalf of the those who have been bereaved but because the public is entitled to know when boys of this age commit crimes of the gravity which these are.”

Detective Chief Inspector Andy O’Connor reportedly said:

“Since the attack, none of the five has shown any remorse for what they did to Sean and for the taking a young man’s life.

They have even laughed and joked in the dock at court despite being charged with such a serious offence.”

 

Sentence

The boys face a life sentence for the murder. It is likely that the starting point for Reese O’Shaughnessy is likely to be 25 years, as he was over 18 at the time of the offence and brought a weapon to the scene.  The others face a starting point of 12 years, due to their ages.  The aggravating features, which may increase the overall term, are likely to be the planning involved in the offence.  Age may be a mitigating factor.

 

Sentencing will take place on 2nd July to allow for the preparation of Pre-Sentence Reports.

 

Loren Morris jailed for having sex with 8 year old boy over 50 times

Paedophile: Loren Morris, 21, was sentenced to prison after a court found that she had slept with a child 50 times

Loren Morris has been sentenced to imprisonment for two years having been convicted following trial of three counts of sexual activity with a child.  She was also made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, preventing her from contacting a child under the age of 16 without the consent of the child’s parents.  She was placed on the Sexual Offences Register, where her details will remain for ten years.

HHJ Juckes QC’s sentencing remarks are not available, and so we are reliant on the tabloids for the facts of the case.  It is said that Morris, now aged 21 and a mother, engaged in sexual intercourse with the victim over 50 times in a two year period.  The abuse commenced when Morris was 16 years old, and the victim was 8.  It is said that the victim “bragged” about the offences at school, which led the school to inform the police.

Legislation

Section 9 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 sets out the offence:

9 Sexual activity with a child

(1) A person aged 18 or over (A) commits an offence if–

(a) he intentionally touches another person (B),

(b) the touching is sexual, and

(c) either–

(i) B is under 16 and A does not reasonably believe that B is 16 or over, or

(ii) B is under 13.

(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section, if the touching involved–

(a) penetration of B’s anus or vagina with a part of A’s body or anything else,

(b) penetration of B’s mouth with A’s penis,

(c) penetration of A’s anus or vagina with a part of B’s body, or

(d) penetration of A’s mouth with B’s penis,

is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years.

(3) Unless subsection (2) applies, a person guilty of an offence under this section is liable–

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both;

(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years.

Sentencing Guidelines

The sentencing guidelines for the offence can be found here (at page 53).

It appears that the sentencing Judge placed the offence into the second bracket of the guidelines, with a starting point of 2 years and a range of 1 to 4 years.

Comment

We know little of the mitigation put forward, and the Judge’s sentencing remarks have not been published, but the Judge was reported as having said:

“I make no secret of the fact your case has given me cause for much consideration.

I have come to the conclusion that due to the concern and embarrassment caused to both you and your family that you will not be offending again, let alone committing sexual offences.

I am also aware of the effect this will have on your baby. I am pleased to hear your parents have started to build bridges with you.

That does not stop the fact though that you had full sexual intercourse with a child when he was eight to
10 years old – by his evidence it was upwards of fifty times.

It seems to me that I am bound to pass an immediate custodial sentence. I take into account what has been said to me and the fact that you stopped the activity yourself.

You realised it was wrong rather than being caught and forced to stop. Therefore my sentence is one of two years. You will serve 12 months in prison before being released on licence.”

It seems likely that this was Morris’s first offence.  Having contested the offences at trial should wouldn’t have received any credit for a guilty plea.  The Guideline notes the following:

The culpability of the offender will be the primary indicator of offence seriousness, and the nature of the sexual activity will provide a guide as to the seriousness of the harm caused to the victim.

Other factors will include:
• the age and degree of vulnerability of the victim – as a general indication, the younger the child, the more vulnerable he or she is likely to be, although older children may also suffer serious and long-term psychological damage as a result of sexual abuse;
• the age gap between the child and the offender;
• the youth and immaturity of the offender; and
• except where it is inherent in an offence, any breach of trust arising from a family relationship between the child and the offender, or from the offender’s professional or other responsibility for the child’s welfare, will make an offence more serious.

Morris’s defence barrister made reference to her “immaturity”; it’s likely that she would have been sentenced more leniently given the fact that the offending commenced when she was a child herself, albeit the disparity between her age (16 years old at the start of the offending) and the age of the victim (8 years old) is likely to have been an aggravating feature.  It’s also notable that the Judge referred to the fact that Morris “realised it was wrong”, which suggests that this was something she came to recognise, rather than something that she knew all along.  Again, we can speculate that this may reflect back to her immaturity, as referred to by her counsel.

It’s been reported that Morris’s barrister mitigated for a community order or suspended sentence.  On the face of it, even with a first time offender, a community penalty would be a very lenient sentence.  Custodial sentences of up to two years can be suspended, and so it’s understandable that defence counsel would be seeking such a sentence, particularly given the fact that Morris has a child which, presumably, she is carer for.  In my view it’s understandable that the Judge did not suspend the sentence; offences of this nature will usually warrant a custodial sentence.

Questions have been asked as to whether she received a more lenient sentence because she is a female. In our experience the view that female offenders receive lesser sentences than male offenders committing the same offence does not stand up to scrutiny. A sentence has to reflect all of the factors including (as is common with female offenders) the fact that they are the primary carer of children, which may be cause for reducing a sentence. It appears that Morris was sentenced firmly within the guidelines (and so there is little to suggest she benefited from a more lenient sentence on the basis she is a female). It’s unlikely we’ll see an appeal in this case.

Notorious gang member Sean Bradish faces further life sentences having committed another spate of robberies

Sean Bradish, 46, is facing another life sentence following the commission of four armed raids between April and September 2012.

Bradish poses with champagne after a spate of robberies in 2002

photo courtesy of BBC News

The first life sentences

Bradish was originally convicted in 2001, following a trial, of four offences; conspiracy to rob, 2 offences of having a firearm with intent to commit robbery and an offence of having an imitation firearm with intent to commit robbery.  He was sentenced to three automatic life sentences, to run concurrently, with two years concurrent for the imitation firearm.  The sentencing judge fixed a notional determinate sentence of 15 years and a specified minimum term of six years and seven months, having taken into account the 10 months he spent on remand prior to trial.

The second life sentences

A second trial took place in 2002, where Bradish was convicted of four offences; conspiracy to rob, conspiracy to possess firearms with intent to commit robbery, and two offences of robbery.  He received four life sentences, to run concurrently.  The sentencing judge fixed a notional determinate sentence of 28 years, and a specified period of 13 years and 5 months’ imprisonment, having taken into account time on remand.  In sentencing, Judge Forrester said:

“The robberies themselves were carried out with ruthless efficiency and determination, usually to the terror of the public, who were threatened with guns, forcing the staff to hand over money. Not only the public, but the bank staff and the guards manning security vehicles, you made victims of all of them.

… It can be said … that no one was seriously, physically injured — and I stress physically — that is true, although a firearm was discharged on one occasion. You had no need to discharge your loaded firearms … The reason you had no need was because you got what you wanted by the threats at the point of a gun.”

Steven Roberts, a fellow member Bradish’s gang, gave evidence against Bradish in these earlier trials and received a reduced sentence of 8 years.  He gave an insight into the offending in an interview with The Observer in 2002:

‘I first met the Bradish brothers in 1993 when I was drinking in a pub off the Stonebridge Estate [a notorious north London area] which was frequented by at least 18 well-known armed robbers. I was making a living from robbing drug dealers, something I’d started with a couple of old school friends a few years earlier.

‘We had become quite sophisticated. I’d got hold of a police badge and walkie-talkie. I would knock on the dealer’s door, show them the badge, explain there had been an accident, and ask if I could use their phone because my radio wasn’t working.

‘As soon as they opened up a bunch of us would rush in, tie them up and threaten them at gunpoint until they told us where the drugs and money were.

‘It was a good living. One time we came away with £46,000 in cash, another time we got a kilo of cocaine. It was the perfect crime because they couldn’t go to the police.’

‘He [Bradish] asked if I wanted to come along on the robbery and I agreed. We parked around the back of the Thomas Cook in Edgware. He went in first and I followed, locking the door behind me. Sean then shouted at the cashier: “Open the fucking door!” She turned round and said “Oh God, not you again” – he’d already robbed the place five times before.

‘We were in there for less than 20 seconds and came away with £24,000. It was incredible.’

‘After that we’d go to the nearest shop and buy a whole new outfit. Everything we had [worn during the robbery] would be thrown away so there would be no forensic evidence. We always bought designer clothes – everything had a label.

‘Then it would be off to the pub for a bit of dinner. By 6pm we’d start taking the cocaine and then go out. We wouldn’t be back until Monday morning, and would easily spend £3,000 on drink and drugs over the weekend. Sometimes we would do two robberies a week.’

In 2012 Bradish was released from prison and raided four banks across London between April and September 2012.  In each raid he brandished an imitation gun and left each bank with over £40,000.

The third life sentences

On 14th February 2014 at the Old Bailey, Bradish pleaded guilty to six robberies, one attempted robbery, and seven counts of possession of an imitation firearm with intent.  Judge Nicholas Cooke QC adjourned sentence until February 20, but warned Bradish that he will receive an automatic life sentence.  See the Evening Standard news report for more details.

Sentencing comments courtesy of Westlaw

interview quotations courtesy of The Observer