Category Archives: The Law, Explained

Fact sheets providing clear and concise explanations of the law.

Adebowale receives permission to appeal against 45-year minimum term

rigby

From the Guardian

Michael Adebowale, one of two men convicted for the brutal murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich in 2013, has been given permission to appeal against his sentence. In January 2014, he was sentenced to mandatory life imprisonment with a minimum term of 45 years. Our write-up of the sentencing hearing can be viewed here.

It is expected that he will appeal against the length of the minimum term only, as the life sentence is mandatory.

What’s the process? 

After being sentenced, a defendant has 28 days in which to lodge grounds of appeal against sentence. Once that period has expired, a defendant wanting to appeal would have to apply ‘out of time’ and provide reasons why the application is late.

Once grounds have been submitted, the case papers are prepared by the Criminal Appeal Office and placed before ‘the single judge’ – a high court judge who sits on his or her own (hence ‘single’) and reviews the case on the papers only.

The single judge then grants or refuses leave to appeal. Granting leave means a full oral hearing will follow.  Refusing leave gives the defendant one of two options: a) leave it there – the single judge has indicated that the grounds aren’t arguable, or b) renew the application for leave. This second option means that the defendant effectively ‘forces’ an oral hearing and applies once again for leave (permission to appeal) before the full court (in sentence cases this is either two or three judges).

In a renewed application, the court will consider the application for leave, and where they decide it ought to be granted, they can (but don’t have to) deal with the appeal there and then. If they refuse leave, they can make a direction for a loss of time which means any time spent in custody between applying for leave and the hearing does  not count against the sentence. In effect, it adds on some time to the sentence that has to be served.

Adebowale

Adebowale has received leave and so a full hearing will follow. As what ever the result, he will spend a very long time in prison, it is likely to take a good few months before it comes before the court. We will of course cover it when it does.

Was the BBC’s legal drama ‘Common’ a missed opportunity?

Common-BBC-cast

Did anyone watch Jimmy McGovern’s drama ‘Common’ on BBC1 last Sunday? I did, but not without serious reservations. I don’t really like TV legal dramas, particularly not the earnest, moralising ones: they tend to miss the subtle shades-of-grey ethical questions that real trials throw up, and the legal howlers in them are just too cringeable.

‘Common’ was not without mistakes. Defence counsel addressing a High Court Judge repeatedly as ‘Your Honour’ instead of ‘My Lord’ was the sort of clanger that, had it occurred in an actual court room, would have led to other counsel wanting to gnaw their wigs to ease the embarrassment.

But what put me off ‘Common’ in particular was its billing as an exploration of the legal concept of ‘joint enterprise’. To explain: since 1861 it has been the law that anyone who assists or encourages the commission of a crime can be tried just as if they had committed the crime themselves. Thus the gang-leader can be tried for the murder of a witness even though he only paid the hitman who ultimately pulled the trigger (‘encouragement’). The getaway driver can be tried for armed robbery even though he only waited outside while the rest of the gang carried the guns and grabbed the bank notes (‘assisting’). What do you do, though, when a suspect says: ‘I only thought my guy was going to beat the witness up’ or ‘I didn’t know the rest of my gang had guns’? It is when someone’s actions assist or encourage a crime, but they say they only intended a lesser offence to be committed, that the rules as to ‘joint enterprise’ come in.

And that is where, for me, ‘Common’ fell down. Because it proceeded on the basis that its protagonist, a likeable 17 year old called ‘Johnjo’, hadn’t intended that a crime be committed at all.

At the start of the programme Johnjo agrees to drive his mate Tony and others to a pizza shop where, unbeknown to him, they all plan to beat someone up. During the assault one of them, Kieran, fatally stabs a bystander. Johnjo then drives them away, still none the wiser as to what has transpired.

On the factual premise of the programme, therefore, Johnjo was not guilty of the murder, or the assault, because he had no inkling that either offence was going to be committed.

Despite that, the programme makers then used Johnjo’s predicament to include comments from various characters about how awful ‘joint enterprise’ was – but Johnjo’s case wasn’t about ‘joint enterprise’. Had a jury known all the facts and been directed about ‘joint enterprise’ correctly they would have returned a unanimous verdict of Not Guilty on him before trial counsel had blown the froth off their coffee.

The greatest shame is that it would have been so easy to rewrite the script in a way that would have highlighted the potential injustice that ‘joint enterprise’ does create.

The way to do that would have been to have written the drama from the point of view of Johnjo’s mate Tony. As I say, Tony, Kieran and others planned to beat someone up in the pizza shop. Had Tony known that Kieran was carrying a knife, and had Tony foreseen that during the assault Kieran might stab someone, intending to kill them or at least seriously injure them, then Tony would also have been guilty of the murder committed by Kieran – because Tony would have had the requisite degree of foresight and because the murder took place during Tony and Kieran’s illegal ‘joint enterprise’. That is how ‘joint enterprise’ works.

In order to be guilty of murder committed by your own hand you must intend to kill, or at least intend to inflict really serious injury. However, you can be guilty of a murder committed by an accomplice, but which you assisted or encouraged – provided you both intend to commit a crime – and you at least foresee the possibility that during that crime your accomplice might commit a murder with murderous intent.

In other words, you can be guilty of ‘joint enterprise’ murder without you yourself intending that anyone should be seriously hurt.

To what extent does such ‘joint enterprise’ liability constitute an injustice? Some might say that if you commit a crime with a homicidal maniac armed with a deadly weapon you deserve all you get. Others might say: you deserve to go to prison, certainly, but not to be convicted of murder.

But whatever the rights and wrongs, it is situations like the one I’ve just outlined, situations where people who richly deserve to spend, say three years in prison, are instead looking at sentences of, say, 20 years, that are exactly the kind of shades-of-grey moral questions that actually arise in our criminal justice system.

The sad thing is that those real-life situations are too subtle, too full of moral ambiguity, involving characters whose own repellent actions have put them too far beyond mainstream ethics, for them to be of any interest to TV dramatists.

Guest post, by David Allan, barrister.

Andy Coulson sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment for involvement in phone hacking

Photo from the Guardian

Photo from the Guardian

Introduction

On 4 July 2014, Andy Coulson was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for conspiracy to hack phones.

Four others who had pleaded guilty received 1/3 credit and were sentenced as follows:

Neville Thurlbeck – 6 months

James Weatherup – 4 months suspended for 12 months. 200 hrs unpaid work

Greg Miskiw – 6 months

Glenn Mulcaire – 6 months suspended (reportedly due to the failure to charge him properly in 2006 when the police had sufficient evidence).

History

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 and the CPS subsequently announced they would be pursuing a retrial.

You can read our coverage of the case here.

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.

Andy Coulson

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.

The indictment

Count 1:

Conspiracy to intercept communications

Details : ANDREW COULSON between 3 October 2000 and 9 August 2006 conspired … 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.

Verdict: Andy Coulson – Guilty

The offence

The offence is one of conspiracy under the Criminal Law Act 1977 s 1, which creates an offence of agreeing with another or others that a course of conduct shall be pursued which if carried out will result in the commission of an offence.

In this instance the offence is ‘unlawful interception’.

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 section 1

Unlawful interception

(1) It shall be an offence for a person intentionally and without lawful authority to intercept, at
any place in the United Kingdom, any communication in the course of its transmission by means
of—

(a)  a public postal service; or

(b)  a public telecommunication system.

(2)  It shall be an offence for a person—

(a)  intentionally and without lawful authority, and

(b)  otherwise than in circumstances in which his conduct is excluded by subsection (6)

from criminal liability under this subsection, to intercept, at any place in the United Kingdom, any communication in the course of its transmission by means of a private telecommunication system.

Maximum sentence

Under section 3(3) of the Criminal Law Act 1977, the person convicted of conspiracy shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding the maximum term provided for the offence they have conspired to commit. (There are a few exceptions but they do not apply here.)

Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 section 1

(7)A person who is guilty of an offence under subsection (1) or (2) shall be liable—

(a)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine, or to both;

(b)on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum.

As Coulson’s conviction was on indictment, the maximum sentence is 2 years’ imprisonment.

Mitigation

The following is taken from the Guardian’s report of the hearing on 1 July 2014.

Timothy Langdale QC said that the maximum sentence should be reserved for cases of the utmost gravity and therefore the sentence should not be 2 years.

Langdale said that “Such a penalty would be unfair on Coulson who did not “knowingly flout the criminal law” and was hitherto of good character…” It was also said that the newspaper’s legal department did not tell Coulson that hacking was illegal.

It was also said that Coulson had already lost two careers – one as a journalist and the second in political life – and this had taken a toll on his life, leaving him unable to get “any work of any substance”.

Spectator editor and political columnist Matthew d’Ancona appeared as a character witness for Coulson, saying that he had restored “public values” to the office of government communications director which had been tarnished by years of the “culture of spin” by two previous incumbents.

Langdale added: “Whatever its failings, the News of the World did have a genuine social and public impact, quite aside from what might be known as the kiss-and-tell journalism and ‘tarts and vicars’ journalism,”

Finally, he said “No one at the News of the World or the newspaper at large in 2000 to 2006 realised that the interception of voicemails was illegal in the sense of a criminal offence,” and that Coulson quite clearly knew hacking was a breach of the Press Complaints Commission code and there might be privacy issues, but never knew it was a crime.

Cases

As this was a rather unique set of circumstances, past case law is of little assistance. However, some guidance can perhaps be obtained from R v Stanford 2006 EWCA Crim 258 (a case about email hacking) in which the Lord Chief Justice said ‘The material factors for a section 1 offence are the nature of the material obtained and the object of obtaining it.’.

It will also be remembered that Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire received 4 months and 6 months respectively after pleading guilty to a conspiracy to commit RIPA 2000 s 1 (phone hacking) in relation to 609 messages on royal aides’ phones occurring over a period of 9 months.

Sentencing remarks

The Judge said Coulson took an active role and must take a large share of the blame and that Coulson wanted stories and “there was little care how he got them, there was little concern for personal privacy”.

The sentencing remarks are available here.

Release

Coulson is likely to be released on a tag (Home Detention Curfew) well before the half way point of his sentence. The way to calculate HDC eligibility in this case is to work out the requisite custodial term (which is half of the imprisonment). The subtract 135 days. So for Coulson, 18 months / 2 = 9 months, subtract 135 days = approximately 4.5 months before he is eligible for release on a tag.

Will there be an appeal?

Possibly but it would be unlikely to succeed. We’ll be able to say more once we have digested the sentencing remarks.

“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.

Rolf Harris Guilty of twelve counts of indecent assault

From the Huffington Post

From the Huffington Post

Introduction

On 30th June 2014, Rolf Harris, 84, was convicted of 12 counts of indecent assault at Southwark Crown Court. 

Offences

Harris was charged with 12 counts of indecent assault (Sexual Offences Act 1956 s 14) 

The 12 charges were in relation to four different complainants occurring between 1968 and 1986. The complainants were aged between seven and 19.

We have a factsheet on historic sex offences.

Individual counts

Complainant 1 – C1

How many counts? Seven of the 12 counts related to this complainant

When were the offences alleged to have been committed? 1978 – 1985

How old was the complainant? 13 – 19 (although it was said that the complainant alleged she was abused by Harris up to age 29)

Who was she? A friend of Harris’ daughter. 

The alleged activity The Mirror reported: Harris approached the girl in her room after she came out of the shower wrapped only in a towel, then indecently assaulted her “on the pretext of a hug and tickle”.

Details During a family holiday to Hawaii in 1978, C1 was assaulted by Harris. He went on to touch C1 several more times during the holiday, including after they moved on to Australia for the trip. 

The Mirror reported: She said had just got out of the shower and was wrapped in only a towel when he came over and gave her a “cringey” hug.

She told the jury of six women and six men: “The way he hugged you and touched you all over, it was cringey.

“The way Rolf folded himself around you, he was a big man…he enfolded you in his arms and then touched you up and down over your body.

“He’d go ‘ooh’.”

He then sexually assaulted her before going back downstairs as if “nothing had happened”, the woman told the court.

C1 also said Harris twice led her away from a jetty where she had been sunbathing to abuse her down the side of the house.

However in cross examination Harris’ barrister questioned C1 about her diary,  particularly asking why there was no mention in her diary of the alleged abuse. The diary entry for that day commented “Today was great, we went on the beach and went swimming.”

Further assaults were said to have taken place in her own home during her teens and on one occasion when other people – including Harris’ wife – were present in the room. C1 developed a drinking problem at age 14 and would drink “shed loads of gin” when Harris visited her family home. C1 also alleged that Harris abused her when she was in bed next to Harris’ daughter Bindi. 

When C1 was 14, Harris followed her to her room, and said she “turned him on” before assaulting her.

After C1 turned 19 there were occasions when she consented to sexual encounters with Harris, which continued until she was 29.

On one occasion she performed a sex act on Harris on the M4 motorway in Harris’ red Mercedes when she was 22 in 1987.

C1 went to see Harris in Cinderella in Wimbledon in 1994.

She performed a sex act on him in his dressing room before the panto started.

She brought the abuse to an end when she was 29.

C1’s father wrote a letter to Harris after C1 told him of the abuse. Harris replied in 1997 admitting a sexual relationship, denying that it began when she was aged 13 and  he had been left feeling “sickened” to learn of the misery he had caused her.

Harris said he believed that “everything that had taken place had progressed from a feeling of love and friendship”, and there was “no rape, no physical forcing”.

Complainant 2 – C2

How many counts? 1

When were they committed? 1968

How old was the complainant? 7 or 8

Details When aged 8, C2 saw Harris at a community centre. in Portsmouth She went to get his autograph. He touched her indecently in an ‘intrusive’ way. 

The Mirror reported: C2 told jurors: “He was very very close, he was leaning into me.

“I thought he was warm, being accommodating to a small child.

“He was looking at me smiling and I smiled and was looking excited, then from out of nowhere I felt his hand go down my back and up between my legs.

“It was very quick, so quick that I thought to myself ‘what’s just happened’.”

The girl “could not process” what had happened and thought it may have been an accident but Harris then repeated the same move.

She said: “More or less instantly the hand was back. I don’t recall it on my back that time, but it was straight up between my legs quite aggressively and forcefully and it didn’t matter if it was going to hurt me or not.”

Complainant 3 – C3

How many counts? 1

When were they committed? 1975

How old was the complainant? 14

Details At an ‘It’s a Knockout’ event in Cambridge, C3 saw Harris playing with a dog. He said “oh look who’s here’ before fondling her.

The Mirror reported: C3 told the jury of six men and six women that Harris put his arm around her, and moved his hand up and down her back, before squeezing her bottom.

With her voice wavering, she said: “I can’t remember the exact words but he made some motion to me ‘ come up’, and I can see it in my mind’s eye as clear as if it was happening now. He came up and put his arm around my left shoulder.

“It was quite a firm hold. I just stood there. I couldn’t believe what was going on, this famous person putting his arm around me.

“To start it was a very nervous but a good feeling, however his hand then moved and his hand went up and down my back and his hand went over my bottom and it was very firm.”

Complainant 4 – C4

Anonymity – C4 had reportedly ‘waived’ her right to anonymity. Whilst there is provision for that under the relevant legislation, we will air on the side of caution and refer to her as C4.

How many counts? 3

When were they committed? ‘late 1980s’

How old was the complainant? 15

Details C4 met Harris whilst she was part of a theatre group in Australia. The group travelled to the UK in 1986 where they met Rolf and had dinner at a London pub where he told funny stories. He asked the girls to sit on his lap whilst he touched them inappropriately. C4 was in shock and went to the bathroom. When she left the bathroom Harris was waiting for her and groped her again. Harris stopped when someone walked by. 

The Mirror reported: C4 then aged 15, said she was invited to sit on the entertainer’s lap, and that his hand began to creep up her thigh.

She said: “I could feel that there was some movement happening beneath me. He was moving back and forth rubbing against me.”

The defence commented that C4’s decision to give press interviews about the alleged abuse demonstrated a desire to make money out of Harris. 

Other alleged victims

The court also heard from five other women who claimed to have been victims of Harris’ behaviour. As some of the behaviour was committed outside of the UK and before legislation enabled such offences to be tried in the UK, the evidence was adduced to attempt to demonstrate how Harris had a defined pattern of behaviour in relation to young women and girls. The jury were not asked to consider whether he was guilty of those allegations. The most notable allegation to feature in the papers was probably that Harris told an 11-year-old girl, “I want to be the first one to give you a tongue kiss,” as he lunged at her during a trip to Australia in 1969.

Jury questions

The media are always fascinated by these. Often they can give an inaccurate indication as to the stage or thought process of the jury and barristers tend to tell their clients not to take too much heart (or dismay) from a particular question asked by their jury.

The jury asked the Judge a question on Friday 20 June. The Guardian reported that they were sent home for the weekend early after asking the Judge what happens if they are unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

The Judge replied: “At the moment the only verdict on each count I can accept from you is one upon which you are all agreed.

Sentencing

Maximum sentences

Sexual Offences Act 1956 s 14 – the law was amended over the years and the maximum sentence changes depending on when the offence was committed. The relevant periods are:

1 January 1957 – 31 December 1960: 2 years

1 January 1961 – 15 September 1985: 2 years or 5 years if victim under 13 and age stated on indictment

16 September 1985 onwards: 10 years

What does this mean for Rolf Harris?

C1 – max sentence on each count 2 years

C2 – max sentence 5 years provided the indictment specifies C2 was aged under 13

C3 – max sentence 2 years

C4 – max sentence on each count 10 years

How will the Judge approach the case?

The starting point for sentencing historic sexual offences is the new sexual offences guideline. We have a fact sheet on the sentencing of historic sexual offences which explains the way the Judge will approach the sentencing exercise. 

Additionally, as there are multiple counts to sentence for, our guide on totality and concurrent and consecutive sentences may be of interest.

He will be sentenced on Friday 4 July at 10am. He was bailed until then.

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.

 

‘Lex mitior’ – IPP, Extended sentences and giving defendants the benefit of new, lenient, legislation

prison wing

The transcript is available here: R v Docherty [2014] EWCA Crim 1197

Shaun Docherty pleaded guilty to two charges of wounding with intent, contrary to section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. On 20 December 2012 he was sentenced by the learned judge to a term of imprisonment for public protection (“IPP”) with a specified minimum custodial term of 5 years and 4 months.

The facts are unimportant for the purposes of the case, but are recounted in the judgment, with some additional information surrounding the proceedings, at paras [2] – [13].

The probation service concluded that a) he posed a high risk of serious harm – in summary, considered him to be ‘dangerous’ – b) there was a very high risk of violent re-offending, and c) the most appropriate sentence was IPP.

The Judge had regard to that report and found that Docherty was indeed ‘dangerous’ and imposed an IPP sentence.

There was no challenge to the length of the minimum term.

The issues

Where to start? Well IPP was repealed on 3 December 2012. Docherty was sentenced on 20 December 2012, a short while before the repeal was effective.

At that time, the scheme for sentencing dangerous offenders – where a judge considers that a defendant poses a significant risk of serious harm to members o the public – was as follows:

1)      Life sentence (discretionary, under common law or CJA 2003 s.225)

2)      IPP (CJA 2003 s.225)

3)      Extended sentences or ‘EPP’ (the previous incarnation, CJA 2003 s 227)

The grounds of appeal were as follows:

a)     The judge failed to consider whether lesser restrictions, including the old style extended sentence of public protection (“EPP”) under the 2003 Act, instead of IPP would have enabled proper protection of the public.

b)      The abolition of IPP prior to the sentencing in this case obliged the court to impose an EPP rather than an IPP in order to comply with Article 7 (or Articles 5 and 14) of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”) and the international norm and principle of “lex mitior”.

In essence, the argument was that IPP was wrong in principle.

The first ground

‘The Judge failed to consider whether a lesser sentence would have enabled proper protection of the public.’

In C & Others [2009] 1 WLR 2158 the Lord Chief Justice stated that IPP was the “most draconian sentence” apart from life, and that it should not be imposed if an overall sentence package of lesser measures provides appropriate protection to the public. [20]

The Court of Appeal accepted that ‘ the judge did not expressly give reasons in his judgment for not adopting the alternative of an extended sentence, with other precautionary measures.’ [21]

However, the Court found that the reason was ‘entirely clear’, namely that:

i) the judge was unable to discern the time scale within which the danger posed by the appellant could be addressed, controlled and (hopefully) eliminated.

ii) a discretionary life sentence had been discounted (due to the availability of IPP.

iii) there was a perceived need for the parole board to assess the risk posed by Docherty (which was not available under the EPP regime). [21]

The Court concluded: ‘We have no doubt that he had the full range of options in mind, and that he gave the issues full consideration even if he did not spell them out explicitly.’ [21] and ‘The sentence of IPP was clearly suited to this case in a way that an old style extended sentence was not. [22]

The second (more interesting) ground

‘The abolition of IPP required the court to impose and EPP sentence (not IPP) as to not do so would offend ECHR article 7, 5 and 14 and the principle of lex mitior.’

The ECHR can be found here.

The Court divided the issues into two:

Article 5 and 14

It was agreed by the parties that the issue fell within the ambit of article 5 (the right to liberty and security-with listed exceptions) and so that if there has been discrimination towards the appellant on a ground encompassed by Article 14 (the prohibition on discrimination), that Article is breached in the absence of objective justification.

The basic argument was that there was no objective justification for the treatment received by Docherty since it was dictated by the date upon which he had been convicted in circumstances where a lesser penalty would have been imposed had he been convicted after 3 December 2012 (because IPP was not available), and thus prior to his date of sentencing on 20 December 2012.

Docherty claimed that the discrimination alleged did not fall into any of the listed catgeories, and so fell into the ‘other’ category.

The Court did not agree. The decision in R (Clift) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2007] 1 AC 484 held that classification as a prisoner was insufficient to amount to “other status” for the purposes of Article 14. [29]

Interestingly the European Court of Human Rights came to the opposite conclusion in Clift v UK [Application 7205/07] however, relying on Kay & Others v Lambeth LBC [2006] 2 AC 465, it was clear that domestic courts  are bound by the House of Lords precedent. [30]

The Court also expressed doubts as to whether there had ‘been unjustifiable discriminatory behaviour. The mere fact of an anomaly arising from the introduction of LASPO would not of itself constitute unwarranted discrimination – see paragraph 33 of Clift (H of L).’ [31]

The Court commented that whether legislative change was effective from the date of the offence (CJA 2003), the date of sentence (CJIA 2008 amendments) or the date of conviction (LASPOA 2012), there would inevitably be different treatment. [32-33]

The conclusion in relation to Articles 5 and 14 was as follows:

Given Parliament’s legitimate desire to reform the legislation relating to dangerous offenders, we doubt in the circumstances whether asserted incongruities of the sort arising in this case properly fall within the ambit of Article 14 discrimination, but even accepting that they do, it is hard to see how, unless the appellant is successful on the Article 7 point, the State could fail to establish the necessary objective justification.

The same conclusion applies to the appellant’s further submission asserting a violation of Article 14 within the context of Article 7. [34-35]

Article 7

The complaint was that there was a failure to comply with Article 7 of the ECHR and the international principle of “lex mitior”.

Lex mitior – the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines it as: ‘In the event of a change in the law applicable to a given case prior to a final judgement, the law more favourable to the person being investigated, prosecuted or convicted shall apply.’ (Article 24(2))

Article 7(1) of the Convention reads as follows:

“No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than one that was applicable at the time the criminal offence was committed.”

The Court commented: Clearly, on its face there was in fact no breach, because the penalty of IPP was available at the time when the offences were committed. There is nothing in Article 7 which expresses the concept of “lex mitior”. [39]

Interestingly, Article 7 is in contrast with other international instruments:

International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Article 15 states:

“(1) No one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time when the criminal offence was committed. If subsequent to the commission of an offence, provision is made by law for the imposition of a lighter penalty, the offender shall benefit thereby.” (emphasis added by the Court)

It was suggested that the modern law of the ECHR applies more widely than the express wording of Article 7, relying on  the decision of the Strasbourg court in Scoppola v Italy (No.2) [2010] 51 EHRR 12, the facts of which are as follows.

The applicant murdered his wife on 2 September 1999; the offence was punishable by life imprisonment. On 18 February 2000, he agreed to be tried under a summary procedure. It lacked some of the safeguards of a full trial but carried the advantage of reducing the available sentence to 30 years. That provision came into force in December 1999. On 24 November 2000 he was found guilty and sentenced. The court noted his liability to a life sentence, but imposed a 30 year term, honouring the terms of the summary procedure. On the same day a new legislative decree took effect. It amended the provision relating to summary procedure which reduced life to 30 years. It provided that in the event of trial under the summary procedure life imprisonment could be imposed in place of life with daytime isolation. On an appeal hearing in January 2002, the applicant was sentenced to life imprisonment pursuant to the amending legislation. Further domestic appeals by the applicant against his life sentence were dismissed.

The applicant’s Article 6 and 7 challenges were upheld and the 30 year term reinstated. [41-42]

In so deciding, the European Court decided to depart from its earlier decision in X v Germany [Application No 7900/77] that Article 7 did not guarantee the right to a more lenient penalty provided for in a law subsequent to the offence. [43]

The basis for that decision was in essence that ‘a consensus had gradually emerged in Europe and internationally around the view that application of a criminal law providing for a more lenient penalty, even one enacted after the commission of the offence, has become a fundamental principle of criminal law.’ Additionally, Italian law had recognised the principle since 1930. [para 106 of the Scoppola judgment]

Further, the absence of recognising lex mitior in Article 7 was not decisive when viewed in light of the developments in attitude to the principle. [para 107 of the Scoppola judgment]

Inflicting a heavier penalty for the sole reason that it was prescribed at the time of the commission of the offence would mean applying to the defendant’s detriment the rules governing the succession of criminal laws in time. In addition, it would amount to disregarding any legislative change favourable to the accused which might have come in before the conviction and continuing to impose penalties which the State – and the community it represents – now consider excessive. [para 108 of the Scoppola judgment]

The Grand Chamber felt it appropriate to depart from the decision in X v Germany and reinstated the 30-year term. [para 109 of the Scoppola judgment]

Counsel for Docherty sought to claim the benefit of this ruling and urged that, in consequence, the IPP having been abolished by the date of sentence for convictions recorded on or after 3 December 2012 and the new style extended sentence only being available for convictions on or after that date, the lesser sentence of an old style extended sentence should have been imposed. [45]

The Court of Appeal considered the Scoppola decision and the possible arguments for not applying it [46]

a)     The lesser sentence sought cannot be the one provided for by the new legislation (LASPO) since the new style extended sentence can only be imposed in post 3 December 2012 cases. What Mr Rule sought to obtain is the imposition of the old style extended sentence under the 2008 Act which was repealed by LASPO from 3 December 2012, as were the provisions relating to the sentence of IPP, and retaining both sentences as available to a court where a conviction had occurred before that date. Thus, while it is sought to consign the IPP to history in advance of the date provided for by Parliament, it is sought to retain the benefit of a closely-related provision which was repealed in the same way. To do so is not impossible, if Scoppola were applied, but there is an anomalous feel to it.

b)     There is a tension between the phrases “it would amount to disregarding any legislative change favourable to the accused which might have come in before the conviction” (paragraph 108), and “differences between the criminal law in force at the time of the commission of the offence and subsequent criminal laws enacted before a final judgment is rendered” (paragraph 109). The latter phrase is repeated at paragraph 119. The difference between conviction and sentence was irrelevant in Scoppola: it is central in this case. The applicant’s conviction was recorded prior to the commencement date for the relevant provisions LASPO, and prior to the making of the relevant commencement order.

c)     The reference in paragraph 108 to “foreseeability of penalties” as an essential element of Article 7 is hard to follow in the present context. The available penalties for the appellant’s crimes were clear and certain at the date of his offence. Uncertainty is only a function of retrospectivity which is prohibited by Article 7. If anything the possibility of some later, more lenient legislation applying retrospectively introduces uncertainty instead of applying foreseeability of penalties.

d)     The decision in Scoppola was by a majority of 11 votes to 6 with a strong dissenting judgment in relation to Article 7. The Article 6 violation was clear and was found unanimously. The case could have been decided on that basis alone. The Article 7 decision required the setting aside of longstanding authority.

e)     In Scoppola, there had been in place since the 1930s a provision of the Italian Criminal Code which contained the lex mitior principle.

Did Scoppola have to be followed?

The Court said:

Noting that Scoppola is a decision of the Grand Chamber, we do not consider that it can be said that the judgment represents a misunderstanding or overlooking of a significant feature of English law or practice which would or could lead to a review by the European Court. Any argument that Scoppola does not represent a “clear and constant” line of authority will founder since the decision is one of the Grand Chamber. Thus the obligation is to follow the Scoppola interpretation, subject to its application to the particular facts of the case. [51]

In essence, yes it had to be followed unless the Court considered it did not apply to the facts of Docherty’s case.

Legislative changes and domestic law

The court commented:

As our domestic law currently stands, it is clear that the subsequent legislative changes in the criminal law are presumed not to have any retrospective effect (Section 16(1)(d) and (e) of the Interpretation Act 1978), and it is well established that legislation enacted after the conviction and sentence does not affect the correctness of anything done under the law as it stood and was properly applied at the time of trial: Bentley [2001] 1 Cr App R 21, at 24 by Lord Bingham CJ. Even a later interpretation of the common law that is favourable to a convicted person does not in itself confer a right to an extension of time for appealing to the Court of Appeal: see, for example, Hawkins [1997] 1 Cr App R 234. [48]

The LASPO regime

The effect of the LASPO changes (after 3 December 2012) was that the hierarchy of sentences available prior to LASPO had changed:

Formerly, Life, IPP and EPP were available. Post 3/12/12, the sentences available were now Life and EDS (the new extended sentence).

The gap left by the IPP repeal did not mean that defendants who formerly would have received IPP would automatically receive a life sentence, but it was accepted that the repeal would mean that more life sentences would be imposed. (See R v Burinskas and our blog in December 2012)

The question for the court was whether there was a real possibility of Docherty receiving a life sentence if he was sentenced after the LASPO changes were in force (3 December 2012 onwards). [57]

The Court said: a judge under the new sentencing regime could properly and reasonably consider a life sentence as a real possibility. [58]

The sentencing judge himself recognised this in his sentencing remarks. He did not consider that a life sentence was needed when an IPP was available to him. However he went on to comment that “the position may well change with the changes in the law”. [59]

Therefore (even if it were to be recognised in English law) lex mitior did not apply as there was a real possibility that Docherty would have received a life sentence (more severe than his EPP sentence) had he been sentenced under (what he considered the benefit of) the new LASPO regime.

The appeal was dismissed.