Tag Archives: child cruelty

Minimum terms of 30 years for the murder of 4 year old Daniel Pelka

Daniel PelkaImage from BBC News.

Magdelena Luczak and her partner Mariusz Krezolek were convicted of murder, having previously admitted cruelty to a child. The victim was Luczak’s son, 4 year old Daniel Pelka.

The couple came to Britain in 2006 from Poland. It was alleged that they worked as a team to systematically starve Daniel to death. During the trial, his condition was likened to that of a concentration camp victim by a doctor.

BBC News reports are here, here and here.

Starved

Her case was that she cared for Daniel in the mornings and gave him breakfast. Krezolek cared for him in the afternoons and initially gave him smaller portions to discipline him, but later stopped feeding him all together. Daniel lost a lot of weight over the school holidays and this was noticed by teachers at school.

The prosecution alleged that Daniel was forced to steal food from school and that there were text messages from Luczak to Krezolek discussing bribing Daniel with food to keep quiet about being beaten. Luczak admitted bribing him. She also admitted prohibiting Daniel’s school teacher from giving him food; she said this was to protect him from Krezolek, the inference being that he would be violent if he found out.

It was also alleged that Krezolek fed Daniel salt and water so that he was sick and brought up the food he had eaten at school before his body could gain proper nourishment from it,

Beaten

Luczak denied assaulting Daniel but admitted that she should have done more to protect him as she ‘knew what was really going on at home’.

When asked why she had not taken Daniel to the doctors, she replied “Because Daniel would always have a lot of bruises.

“I tried to make it secret, what was happening to him. That is why I didn’t go to the doctor.”

When asked why, she said “It wasn’t me, it was [Krezolek] but I knew what was happening. I myself don’t understand my actions. I must have loved [Krezolek] to allow such a thing.”

Daniel died in hospital of severe head injuries on 3 March 2012.

Trial

Both denied murder but were convicted on 31 July 2013.

Both Luczak and Krezolek ran defences which blamed each other; Luczak said that Krezolek would not let her feed Daniel and maintained that she had tried to protect Daniel from Krezolek, who was abusive.

Krezolek said in evidence that Luczak stopped him calling an ambulance after Daniel fell because she was concerned social services would notice his bruises.

He said the boy had lost consciousness while Luczak was getting him ready for a bath and Daniel was left for 24-26 hours after his fall before he was seen by a paramedic.

Daniel’s death is- the subject of a serious case review by Coventry’s Safeguarding Children Board.

Sentence

Here is our guide to sentencing in murder cases.

Here are the sentencing remarks.

The life sentence is mandatory for those convicted of murder. But the Judge has to set the minimum term to be spent in prison before the pair are eligible for release.

In this case, the Judge specified minimum terms of 30 years for both defendants. This was based on the fact that she considered that the seriousness of the case was ‘particularly high’. This is despite the case featuring none of the listed factors of cases which ‘normally’ fall into the 30-year category. (See CJA 2003 Sch 21 para 5). In doing so, the uplift to the 30 year category takes account of the horrific features of the case, and so no adjustment is needed from that.

This provides a good example of judicial discretion; if the Judge had decided that the case did not fall into the 30 year category, then she would have had to have started at 15 years (see an earlier post as to why). She would then have had to increase the sentence to reflect all the aggravating features. Whether selecting a 15 or 30 year starting point, the result would have no doubt been the same. The starting points are to assist the courts in fixing the correct term, and nothing more.

There was no plea and good character (or otherwise) provides little mitigation. The aggravating features are so profound that despite the sentence being higher than many predicted, one may struggle to suggest that it should be reduced on appeal.

That said, don’t discount an appeal. For both, there is little to lose in challenging the minimum terms. The 30 year sentence is certainly stern, but perhaps not so long as to require the Court of Appeal to step in. Once we have had chance to digest the sentencing remarks, we may revisit this case and update this post.

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