Tag Archives: ABH

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.

Assault occasioning Actual Bodily Harm (ABH)

Legislation: Offences Against the Person Act 1861 s 47

Racially aggravated common assault: Crime and Disorder Act 1998 s 29

Definition: Where a person commits an assault against another, thereby causing ABH. Bodily harm has its ordinary meaning and includes any hurt calculated to interfere with the health or comfort of the victim: such hurt need not be permanent, but must be more than transient and trifling

Explanation: Section 47 is charged where the injuries are serious and/or where the likely sentence is viewed as being in excess of 6 months.

Mode of trial:Triable either way

Maximum sentence: 6 months (Magistrates’ Court) 5 years (Crown Court) 7 years (racially aggravated offence, in the Crown Court only)

Examples: Punches, kicks, head-butts, and the use of weapons where injuries such as a broken nose, black eyes, bruising, grazes, cuts are caused.

CPS guidance: Where the injuries exceed those that can suitably be reflected by Common Assault – namely where the injuries are serious – a charge of ABH should normally be preferred.

In determining whether or not the injuries are serious, relevant factors may include, for example, the fact that there has been significant medical intervention and/or permanent effects have resulted.  Examples may include cases where there is the need for a number of stitches (but not the superficial application of steri-strips) or a hospital procedure under anaesthetic.

Sharon Lyndsay

Lyndsay pleaded to section 18 wounding and theft. Mr Marsden pleaded to ABH.

Facts

Mr Sheehy who suffered from epilepsy, met Lyndsay and her friend, Mr Marsden, whilst out drinking.

Lyndsay claimed that Mr Sheehy had made unwanted sexual advances. In fact, the court heard that Lyndsay had invited Mr Sheehy back to Mr Marsden’s house. In an unprovoked attack, Marsden punched Mr Sheehy in the head, climbed on top of him to ‘ram a pen in his ear’.  Lyndsay, an observer to this point, then took over the assault before stealing £180 from Mr Sheehy’s pockets.

It was reported that Lyndsay stubbed out a lit cigarette on the eyes and face of Mr Sheehy, pulled down his trousers and boxer shorts and then systematically burnt the top of his thighs and groin with a hot iron while he “screamed for mercy”.

Mr Sheehy suffered extreme pain for a number of days and the trauma worsened his epilepsy. He was embarrassed to wear shorts in public due to the marks on his legs.

Previous convictions

Lyndsay had a history of dishonesty offences, including burglary and theft.

Marsden had a ‘lengthy record of violence’ and was subject to a Suspended Sentence Order imposed 3 weeks prior to this offence.

Judge’s remarks

“This was a nasty example of bullying and humiliation of someone who was overwhelmed because he was intoxicated and outnumbered.

It was a sustained and repeated assault of a vulnerable victim.”

Sentence

Marsden received 20 months, with a discount for his plea. In addition, 3 months as he was subject to a suspended sentence.

Lyndsay received 6½ years, with a discount for her plea. In addition, there was a concurrent sentence of 6 months imposed for theft.

Guidelines

Click here to see an explanation of how the guidelines work.

Click here to see a criticism of the guidelines.

Section 18 wounding: It would appear that the Judge placed the offence at the top of Category 2, i.e. Greater harm and lower culpability or Lesser harm and higher culpability. The starting point is 6 years with a range of 5-9 years.

Mitigating factors may have been: a) she demonstrated remorse.

Aggravating factors may have been: a) her previous convictions, b) the victim was vulnerable, c) he was lured back to the house for the purposes of the theft/assault d) leading role in the attack, e) the victim was intoxicated, f) the serious injuries caused to the victim, g) items used to inflict serious injuries, h) the effect the attack had on the victim, i) the humiliation of the victim.

Starting at 6 years, the Judge will have added an uplift for the number of aggravating factors, notably the serious injuries, causing the victim to scream in pain, inflicted with an iron and a cigarette. The aggravating features take the offence toward the top of Category 2, which is 9 years. With a 1/3 discount for the plea, a sentence of 6½ years is very much in the range of sentences available for this type of offence.

Click here to see the wounding guideline (page 3).

ABH: It would appear that the Judge placed Marsden’s offence between Category 1, i.e. Greater harm and higher culpability, and Category 2 i.e. Greater harm and lower culpability or Lesser harm and higher culpability. The Category 1 starting point is 18 months, and Category 2 starting point is 26 weeks, after a trial of a person of good character. Consequently, the Judge would need to make an adjustment to take into account the particular factors of Marsden’s case.

Mitigating factors may be: a) his involvement was a single blow, b) he demonstrated remorse.

Aggravating factors may be: a) his previous convictions, b) the victim was vulnerable, c) he was lured back to the house for the purposes of the theft/assault d) subject to a Suspended Sentence Order imposed 3 weeks prior to the offence, e) the victim was intoxicated, f) the injuries caused by Lyndsay which Marsden did not prevent, g) the serious injuries caused to the victim.

Starting at 6 months, the Judge will have added an uplift to take into account the aggravating factors. Given the serious injuries, the premeditation, the fact that the victim was vulnerable and his record, a sentence of around 12 months is not beyond the expected sentence. With a discount for the plea, 6 months is not excessive.

Concurrent sentences:

In short, the principle of totality requires that a court sentencing for more than one offence must ensure that the eventual sentence reflects all the criminality. Whether the court arrives at the sentence by reducing the individual sentences and adding them together (consecutive sentences) or whether there is a ‘main’ sentence for the most serious offence which reflects the less serious offences (concurrent sentences) the end result should be the same.

Further, concurrent sentences will usually be appropriate where the offences arise out of the same incident. Here, the theft and the ABH/wounding were all part of the same incident in that they were committed at the same time in the same sequence of events.