Tag Archives: life

Ahmed Al-Khatib jailed for life for ‘honour killing’ of Rania Alayed

Manchester Evening News

Manchester Evening News

Introduction

On 4th June 2014 Ahmed Al-Khatib was found guilty of murdering Rania Alayed, his wife. He was sentenced to the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with a minimum term of 20 years. His brother, Muhaned Al Khatib, was cleared of murder but sentenced to 3 years for Perverting the Course of Justice which he had previously admitted. This related to the hiding of Ms Alayed’s body.

A third brother, Hussain Al-Khatib, was found guilty of Perverting the Course of Justice and sentenced to 4 years in prison. This also related to the disposal of the body (which has still not been found).

The Prosecution alleged that the motive for the killing was a concern that Ms Alayed was “becoming ‘too Westernised’ for her controlling husband’s liking.” We don’t have the sentencing remarks, so we don’t know whether this was accepted by the Judge.

What  we do have from the news reports is the following :

The judge said that he was sure it was Ahmed’s intention to kill and that his ‘main motive was jealousy’.

“How you killed Rania may never be known but I think it’s likely you strangled or smothered her, your actions after you murdered Rania showed no remorse – you thought she deserved to die”, he added.

The judge went on to say that Ahmed may have had a ‘breakdown’ since his arrest, but there was ‘no doubt at all’ that he had ‘hugely exaggerated’ his symptons and that his courtoom outbursts were ‘deliberately staged’.

“Your ridiculous claim that when you killed Rania you were acting in self-defence after seeing her turn into a devil trying to strangle you was a further insult to her memory and the jury’s intelligence.

 

Comment

The sentence ‘feels’ right given the facts. Looking at the aggravating features, the main one is the disposal of the body. There don’t appear to be any mitigating features (bar possibly his mental health, although the Judge wasn’t too impressed by that). The fact that he was intending to kill his wife is not an aggravating feature and there is a bit of concern about the Judge comments about the ‘ridiculous claim’ that Mr Ahmed put forward. A defendant should not be penalised for having a trial.

So, looking at it that way, it wouldn’t be a surprise if there was an appeal. A tariff of 17-18 would not have been one that could be criticised, but I doubt that the Court of Appeal would interfere with this one.

On a separate note, I am surprised that there has not been any calls for there to be a higher starting point for honour killings. In practice, the higher level of planning that is often involved, will commonly lead to a higher sentence, but I wouldn’t bet against seeing someone suggest a 20 or 25 year tariff for such murders.

Nicky Suddons given second life sentence for attempted rape

Image from Daily Mail

Image from Daily Mail

Nicky Suddons, 26, has been given a second life sentence for attempted rape committed whilst on day release from prison.

An article in The Daily Mail set out the background

Previous convictions

He had received a life sentence (minimum term four years) in 2005 when aged 17 for rape and six sexual assaults. The victims were aged 13 to 28 years. Several of the attacks were committed with the use of a knife.

Day release

Whilst on day release from that life sentence, he – so say the Mail – assembled a ‘rape kit’ containing condoms, a knife, balaclava and gloves, and set about trying to rape a 50-year-old woman who was walking her dog in a park. The Mail reports that Suddons was unsuccessful in his attempted rape because the victim’s dog attacked him.

Second life sentence

Suddons was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 6 years. The Judge said:

“I strongly suspect that the lesson in your case has been learned, and it will be many years, if not decades – and it may be never – when it comes to considering your release.

You are an extremely dangerous human being. I am convinced you will sexually assault and rape women in the future if you are released.”

Suddons was convicted and so we can assume that the Judge took a starting point of 12 years. There was no credit for pleading guilty and the starting point would have been increased by his previous offending, and the fact the offence was committed whilst he was on day release. It is likely to have been mitigated by the fact that this was an attempt, and not the full offence, however the effect of that as mitigation will be limited because of the fact that Suddon was prevented from carrying out the full offence, as opposed to changing his mind and stopping the attack of his own volition.

Is this an automatic life case?

Automatic life is also known as ‘two-strikes life’. This is because where an offender has a second listed offence, they are liable to a life sentence – the conviction for the second listed offence being their ‘second strike’.

Rape is a listed offence and so as Suddons has a previous conviction for it (the 2004 rape), at first glance it appears that automatic life applies, because of his second listed offence – the 2013 attempted rape.

However, as usual, it isn’t quite as simple as it first seems. There is a condition which requires the sentence imposed for the ‘first strike’ – in this case, the 2004 rape – is of a certain length. For life sentences, the offender must not be eligible for release in the first 5 years of the sentence. In this case, Suddons would have been eligible for release after 4 years (notwithstanding that it appears he was kept in prison beyond that tariff).

So the conclusion is that automatic life did not apply in this case because there was no ‘first strike’.

The route by which the Judge determined that Suddons’ offence warranted a life sentence is therefore discretionary life under CJA 2003 s 225 – what is known as the dangerousness provisions. The Judge asked himself whether Suddons posed a significant risk of serious harm to members of the public. Clearly he did and therefore a life sentence was imposed. The minimum term was set at 6 years and so this would count as a first strike in the future, if Suddons was ever to be released.

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.

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

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.

 

Nightclub gun murder – 28-year minimum term

Ashman

Facts

Vincent Ashman received a mandatory life sentence for the murder of Danny ‘Dannyman’ McCalla.

McCalla, aged 50, was shot six times at the Tropical Harmony club in Bilston in 2009.

The Court heard that Ashman, aged 38, had fled to Jamaica after the shooting but was extradited to the UK in July 2012.

Ashman denied being the man who carried out the shooting but did accept that he was present in the club on the evening.

BBC News reported that the two men were arguing on the dancefloor of the club when shots were fired. The gun was fired seven times, with six bullets hitting McCalla.

There was CCTV evidence which the prosecution claimed showed Ashman holding the murder weapon. Ashman claimed that it was in fact a mobile phone.

The police stated that this wasn’t a gang-related killing and simply arose out of an argument.

Sentencing remarks

There aren’t any. Not even any quoted in the press. Helpful, eh?

Sentence

Ashman received a life sentence – mandatory for murder – with a minimum term of 28 years. Why was that? Well we can assume the starting point was 30 years, as this was a murder involving a firearm.  What has caused the reduction then? Well it isn’t clear, but it may be a combination of the lack of premeditation and the ‘provocation’ (not sufficient to establish a defence) of the argument. There appears to be nothing added on for fleeing the UK for a couple of years to avoid detection. In light of that, he may consider himself lucky not to have a 30 year + tariff.

Life Sentences III (automatic)

Automatic life

The history of sentencing over the last 15 years has not been a happy one.

Chronology

  • 1st October 1997-29th September 1998 (24th August 2000) – s1 Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 (with minor amendments of no real consequence in Crime and Disorder Act 1998 from 30th September 1998)
  • 25th August 2000-3rd April 2005 – s109 Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000
  • 4th April 2005 – 13th July 2008 – s225 (etc) Criminal Justice Act 2003
  • 14th July 2008 – 3rd December 2012 – s13 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008

Apart from the 2008 changes, the relevant date was the date of the offence. For offences sentence post 14th July 2008, but committed and any time between 4th April 2005 and 3rd December, the 2003 provisions (as amended) apply.

The legislation (s122 LASPO)

The new legislation came into force on 3rd December and has some similarities to the ‘old’ two strikes and you’re out. The main difference relates to the qualifying conditions and, whisper it, Chris Grayling (well, Ken Clarke) is softer than Labour.  Under the new law, there’s a requirement that both the first sentence attracted, and the second would otherwise attract, a 10 year sentence (or equivalent extended/life sentence, but NOT IPP), so far fewer people will be caught by it (although whether Grayling will try and reduce this remains to be seen – I wouldn’t be surprised).

The list of offences (Sch 18 LASPO – introducing a new CJA 2003 Sch 15B ) that this applies to is basically the same (there’s more sexual offences from the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and terrorism offences). Indecent photographs of children under s1 Protection of Children Act 1978 is the only old offence that is added, although this is really symbolic as the maximum sentence is 10 years so, unless the maximum sentence is passed, this is unlikely to ever be relevant (as is the case with ss 1112 and 15 Sexual Offences Act 2003 that are also among the offences listed).

Are the old authorities relevant?

The old case law on what amount to exceptional circumstances etc are unlikely to be resurrected.

Much of the old arguments centred around the question of the compatibility of the legislation under Art 3 (whether of itself, or in the particular circumstances of the case). It’s unlikely there will be any real issues given the conditions are much tighter –the requirement of a previous 10 year sentence means that there has to be a history of fairly heavy criminality. That, coupled with the requirement of a sentence of at least 10 years for the new offence, means that it won’t be that many people that this applies to. Also, the ‘exceptional circumstances’ exception is drawn wide enough that where there would be a genuine injustice, a life sentence need not be passed.

But it may be time to brush off cases such as Offen …

Life Sentences II (discretionary)

There are various other offences for which a life sentence can be passed. These tend to be the more serious offences – manslaughter, wounding with the intention of causing really serious harm, rape, robbery etc.

A life sentence would only be passed for an offence if the criteria for dangerousness and an IPP is met and the Court is of the view that because of the nature of the offence or offences, a sentence of life imprisonment should be imposed.

In practice, given the availability of IPP, discretionary life sentences should be imposed only rarely (Kehoe [2008] EWCA Crim 819) and only where the offence is ‘particularly high’ or the culpability of the offender is ‘particularly grave’.