Tag Archives: Life imprisonment

Adebowale receives permission to appeal against 45-year minimum term


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 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.

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.


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,


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.


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.


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.

Court of Appeal expect more discretionary life sentences in wake of LASPO


In conjoined appeals, the Court of Appeal considered the imposition of what is commonly known as a discretionary life sentence.

The appeals were heard together as they raised similar issues in relation to the correct approach to the issue of dangerousness in the wake of the changes to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 effected by LASPO.

 Life imprisonment

The court set out the circumstances in which a sentence of life imprisonment could be imposed:

1. Following a conviction for murder.

 The provisions are unchanged. The sentence is mandatory.

 2. Following a conviction for a second ‘listed’ offence.

Under CJA 2003 s 224A – the court must impose such a sentence unless the circumstances make it unjust to do so – the court described this as a statutory life sentence. This was the sentence described as ‘automatic life’ and ‘two strikes life’ by the press and the MoJ.

3. Following a conviction for a ‘specified’ offence.

Under CJA 2003 s 225 – the court must impose such a sentence where the conditions in s 225(1) and (2) are met (essentially that the defendant poses a significant risk of serious harm to the public, and that the seriousness of the offence justifies such a sentence).

This is the sentence known colloquially as ‘discretionary life’. The court took issue with that description in that the sentence is mandatory where the conditions are made out. The court said that in a broad sense, this was also a statutory life sentence.

4. Following a conviction for a sentence which carries life imprisonment but which is not a specified offence under section 225

 Of this situation, the court said this:

“The jurisdiction to impose a life sentence in an appropriate case has survived the enactment of the 2003 Act and the changes to the sentencing regime affected by LASPO. If it had been intended to abolish it, the appropriate legislative change could readily have been made by provisions restricting the life sentence (other than the mandatory sentence) to the statutory sentence or the discretionary sentence under s.225(1) and (2). As it is, neither the 2003 Act, nor LASPO, imposed any limit on the power of the court to impose a sentence of life imprisonment in such cases. Some of these offences may involve a significant risk of serious harm to the public, but are not included within the list of “specified” offences in the dangerousness provisions in the 2003 Act. One obvious example is the offender who commits repeated offences of very serious drug supplying which justifies the imposition of the life sentence. In circumstances like these the court is not obliged to impose the sentence in accordance with s.225(2), but its discretion to do so is unaffected.”

Why is this an issue?

Well as you will recall, the much criticised IPP sentence was repealed in December 2012.

Prior to the repeal, custodial sentences for serious offences were as follows:

  • Life (mandatory) – murder only
  • Life (discretionary) – limited offences such as s18 wounding and rape
  • IPP – a wide range of sentences including s20 GBH
  • Extended Sentence – a wide range of sentences including ABH
  • Determinate sentence – all serious offences

An IPP sentence was essentially a life sentence; a minimum term was set and the prisoner would be released only when the parole board was satisfied that he no longer posed a risk to the public. The test for imposing a an IPP sentence was essentially the same as ‘discretionary life’, but it was considered to be a less serious sentence in that the minimum terms were generally shorter, and they were imposed for crimes which did not carry life as a maximum sentence.

When LASPO changed the law, the hierarchy became as follows:

  • Life (mandatory) – murder only
  • Life (discretionary)
  • Life (automatic/two strike)
  • EDS (Extended Determinate Sentence) – this comprised of a determinate custodial sentence, and a licence extended beyond the normal term mandated by the length of the custodial sentence.
  • Determinate sentence

The new statutory life sentence, nor the new EDS sentence did not replace IPP. The court said:

“Many offenders who represent a danger to the public may not “qualify” for the statutory life sentence. Yet, for some offenders, the imperative of public protection continues undiminished, and is not wholly met by the “new” extended sentence. Very long term public protection must therefore be provided by the imposition of a discretionary life sentence.

[Due to the nature of an EDS sentence, which is not indefinite] in relation to the offender who will continue to represent a significant risk to the safety of the public for an indefinite period, the new extended sentence cannot be treated as a direct replacement for the old IPP.”

The court’s conclusion

“Accordingly, in cases in which, prior to the enactment of LASPO, the court would have been driven to the conclusion that an IPP was required for public protection … the discretionary life sentence will arise for consideration, and where appropriate, if the necessary level of public protection cannot be achieved by the new extended sentence, ordered.”

Essentially, the court was stating that in the absence of a power to impose IPP, a discreitonary life sentence will be imposed as the new EDS sentence will not provide the required level of protection for the public – there will be more discretionary life sentences.


This is no surprise.

In fact, three days after the repeal of the IPP sentence in December 2012, we published this post which raised exactly this question – in slightly less than neutral language – have the MoJ and Parliament inadvertently caused an increase in the number of life sentences?

Repealing IPP – the intermediary between an extended sentence and a life sentence – created a lacuna into which some (but not many) defendants will fall.

If an EDS (new extended sentence) will not suffice ie it will not provide sufficient protection for the public, then the only alternative is a discretionary life sentence.

Do we really want to be condemning increasing numbers to the heafty penalty of a life sentence? Do we need to? Should increasing amounts be spent on the ancillary costs associated by a life sentence (parole board, life licence etc.)?

More poor policy decisions from the MoJ, and the tax payer and defendants pay the price.

Daniel Bidace Anthony sentenced to 42 years in prison

Daniel Bidace Anthony

Photograph courtesy of Metropolitan police/PA

Daniel Bidace Anthony has been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 42 years for offences of murder, attempted murder and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life. He shot dead Dothan Gordan in his Ealing home in June 2012 and then shot twice at Gordan’s partner, double amputee, Amy Ashitey, as she lay in bed.

The jury sitting at the Old Bailey heard that Mr Gordan had attempted to act at as a middleman in a drugs deal.  Bidace Anthony spent two hours with Gordan in his west London home before taking him into a separate room, forcing him to kneel on the floor, forehead against a stool, and executing him with a single shot to the back of his head.

Bidace Anthony then turned on Gordan’s partner, Ms Ashitey, shooting her twice, because she recognised him.

The jury spent ten hours deliberating, eventually returning a majority verdict of guilty.


Excluding whole-life tariffs, the 42 year minimum term is believed to be the longest determinate sentence ever imposed in England and Wales.

Unfortunately we don’t yet have the sentencing remarks, and so it’s not clear how the 42 year term was arrived at.  However, we can safely presume that, for the offence of murder, the Judge would have started at the 30 year-mark due to the use of the firearm, and taken into account the aggravating features to increase the minimum term.  If sentencing remarks become available, this post will be updated.

What we do know is that further sentences of 36 years (attempted murder) and 15 years (possession of the firearm with intent to endanger life) were also handed down.  These sentences will run concurrent to the 42 year sentence for murder.  The total minimum term is therefore 42 years.

More on life sentences can be found here.

Mark Bridger found guilty of murdering five-year-old April Jones

Mark Bridger has today, 30.5.13, been found guilty of murdering five-year-old April Jones.

April Jones

Photograph: Dyfed-Powys police/PA – courtesy of The Guardian


April went missing in October 2012.  A thorough police investigation was launched but her body was never recovered. 

Bridger seized April whilst she played near her home in Wales.  He later murdered her, concealed and disposed of her body.  The jury at Mold Crown Court found Bridger guilty after just over four hours of deliberation.

The press have now revealed that Bridger confessed to the murder whilst on remand in prison.  His confession was to a priest who visited him in prison, to whom he told he had disposed of April’s body in a river.  Police are thought to have doubted his confession, as it is alleged that he provided many misleading suggestions as to where her body might be.

Police later found fragments of bone, confirmed to have been from April, in Bridger’s fireplace and bath.

The investigation also revealed that Bridger harboured a fascination with child sex abuse images; during the trial the prosecution revealed that he had viewed a cartoon of such activity just hours before April was reported as missing.  Police also found a videotape containing footage of a rape and murder scene from a well-known film.  The rest of the film was missing.

DS Andy John led the investigation.  He is quoted as having said:

“For me the computer evidence points towards an individual who is evil, manipulative and has premeditated this…The unhealthy interest he has in indecent images of children for me is a clear indicator that this individual was going to commit something as horrific as he did.”



Sentence is to take place this afternoon, when this post will be updated.

Bridger will receive a sentence of life imprisonment for the murder, but the tariff is as yet unknown.  Because of the aggravating features of this tragic case, Bridger is unlikely to receive less than a thirty-year tariff, and some believe he may receive a whole life sentence.



Will life mean life?

Whole life tariffs are reserved for those convicted of the most serious offences.  Sources suggest that there are only 46 prisoners serving whole life sentences within the UK.  Five of these individuals appealed their sentences to the European Court of Human Rights last year, citing that the sentence was incompatible with their human rights under article 3.  They lost this appeal

An overview on sentencing can be found here.

More on whole life sentences can be found here.

More on the case can be found here.


Myles Williams


Williams was sentenced to life imprisonment with minimum term of 28 years for murdering girlfriend.

He was found guilty after a trial at the Old Bailey which concluded in September.

The day before her murder, Williams’ girlfriend, Kirsty Treloar received a text message from Williams. It said: “Okay wer all gud now and my new yrs ressy is that i aint going to hit u again and i won’t hit u 4 this yr next yr the yr after that the next yr after that.” The BBC reported that he went on to say that he wanted her to swear on their daughter’s life she wouldn’t do anything to make him angry before ending the message with “love you 4 eva”.

Seven hours after sending the text, Williams received a reply from Kirsty saying that she did not want to see him. Williams then broke into her family home in Hackney, East London, armed with a knife. He attacked Kirsty and when her brother, 23 and sister, 24, tried to help, they were also attacked by Williams. Her brother was stabbed in the chest and her sister suffered a cut on her arm.

Kirsty was dragged into Williams’ car. She was stabbed 29 times in front of their 26-day old child. Reports suggested that the child was ‘covered’ in blood after the attack. Kirsty’s body was found behind wheelie bins near Williams’ abandoned car around two miles away from her family home. Williams claimed that he had no recollection of the attack.


It appears there are no sentencing remarks available. We are then left to speculate on how the Judge arrived at the sentence.

Life imprisonment is a mandatory sentence for anyone convicted of murder (there are juvenile equivalents). However, Williams is aged 19, and so, when the news reports state he has been sentenced to life imprisonment, they actually mean custody for life.

If a person under the age of 18 is convicted of murder, the starting point is 12 years. This is irrespective of the circumstances of the offence. The starting point for someone over 18 convicted of murder with a knife is 25 years. There is guidance on how to reconcile the differences between those two starting points in cases where the defendant has only recently turned 18 years old.

The Judge appears to have started at the 25-year starting point. It may be that the Judge made some reduction to take account of Williams’ age (19 is considered to be young and often attracts a reduction in sentence). It would then appear that the sentence was increased to reflect the aggravating factors. The Judge may have considered that the following were present: the brutal nature of the attack, that Kirsty may have suffered before her death, the concealment of the body, potential abuse of a position of trust and the premeditation.

There could be no reduction for a guilty plea. News reports have remained silent on his character, but in any event, no previous or no significant previous would make little to no difference to this sentence.

Is a 28-year minimum term the correct sentence? On the limited facts it would seem that it is certainly within the expected range. It may be argued that fewer aggravating factors were present, and so when taken with Williams’ age, a sentence above the starting point of 25 years was excessive.

Without a clear factual background, it is difficult to assess. An appeal may be mounted, but expect only a modest reduction, if anything at all.