Tag Archives: murder

Five teenagers found guilty of murder

Clockwise from top left: Reese O'Shaughnessy, Andrew Hewitt, Keyfer Dykstra, Corey Hewitt, Joseph McGill

Sean McHugh was just nineteen when he was stabbed to death in a Liverpool launderette last year.

 

Six teenagers were tried for the murder at Liverpool Crown Court.  Reese O’Shaughnessy, 19, alleged to have been the ringleader, and Keyfer Dykstra, 14, were unanimously found guilty.  Andrew Hewitt, 15, Corey Hewitt and Joseph McGill, both 14, but just 13 at the time, were found guilty by a majority of 10-2.  The sixth teenager was found not guilty, and was released having spent seven months in custody awaiting sentence.

The jury spent over 17 hours in deliberations.  The boys, said to be part of a gang known as “The Laneheads”, cornered Mr McHugh and attacked him with knives and what was described as a makeshift “sword stick” almost two feet long.  He escaped, was found in an alleyway and later died in hospital.

Some of the joint-enterprise attack was captured on CCTV, and this, along with text messages sent between the boys, was shown during trial.

The defendants were subject to reporting restrictions throughout the trial, however following the verdicts Judge Goldstone QC, the Senior Resident Circuit Judge at Liverpool Crown Court, lifted the restrictions, saying:

 “I am quite satisfied the criteria for the naming of the defendants is made out. It is in the public interest they be named, not to score points on behalf of the those who have been bereaved but because the public is entitled to know when boys of this age commit crimes of the gravity which these are.”

Detective Chief Inspector Andy O’Connor reportedly said:

“Since the attack, none of the five has shown any remorse for what they did to Sean and for the taking a young man’s life.

They have even laughed and joked in the dock at court despite being charged with such a serious offence.”

 

Sentence

The boys face a life sentence for the murder. It is likely that the starting point for Reese O’Shaughnessy is likely to be 25 years, as he was over 18 at the time of the offence and brought a weapon to the scene.  The others face a starting point of 12 years, due to their ages.  The aggravating features, which may increase the overall term, are likely to be the planning involved in the offence.  Age may be a mitigating factor.

 

Sentencing will take place on 2nd July to allow for the preparation of Pre-Sentence Reports.

 

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Joanna Dennehy and accomplices sentenced – another whole life order

Joanna Dennehy, Gary Stretch and Leslie Layton

Introduction 

We covered the trials of the two people (Garry Richards and Leslie Layton) who were convicted on 12th February 2014 of various offences relating to assistance given to Joanna Dennehy.

The offences

Dennehy: Murder x 3, attempted murder x 2

Gary Stretch: Preventing lawful burial x 3, attempted murder x 2

Leslie Layton: Preventing lawful burial x 3

Robert Moore: Assisting an offender

Facts of the offending

The first murder was Lukasz Slaboszewski. He was Ms Dennehy’s landlord and was stabbed to death by her on 19th March 2013. His body was placed in a wheelie bin in farmland. Mr Richards was convicted of helping to move the body (Preventing a Lawful Burial)

John Chapman (Ms Dennehy’s boss) was stabbed to death on 29th March and his body dumped in the countryside by Ms Dennehy with the assistance of Mr Richards and Mr Layton (Preventing a Lawful Burial).

Ms Dennehy’s housemate, Kevin Lee, was killed on 29th March and his body found in farmland the next day. Again it seems that Mr Richards and Mr Layton assisted with moving the body. This was the first to be discovered and sparked the investigation.

It seems that Ms Dennehy was quickly linked to the murder and it was publicised that she was wanted for questioning in connection with the murder of Mr Lee. Ms Dennehy and Mr Richards were put up for the night by Mr Moore who was later to lie to the police about this and maintained contact with Ms Dennehy. This founded the charge of Assisting an Offender against Mr Moore.

Ms Dennehy and Mr Richards went to Hertfordshire where, on 2nd April, Ms Dennehy got out of the car that was being driven by Mr Richards and stabbed Robin Bereza, a man who was out walking his dog. He was left for dead. 15 minutes later another random victim, John Rogers, another dog walker, was selected (this time by Mr Richards). Ms Dennehy stabbed him several times and left him, taking his dog with her. They were both arrested shortly afterwards. These were the charges of attempted murder that Ms Dennehy pleaded guilty to and Mr Richards was convicted.

Mr Layton was also convicted of perverting the course of justice. It is not clear what this relates to.

Mr Moore has never been in trouble before. The other three have various different sets of previous offending, but nothing on this league.

It is perhaps clear that Ms Dehenny was the prime mover behind all the offending. This was in fact confirmed by her in mitigation. She had written a letter a letter to the Judge where it appear she apologised for the two random stabbings, but not the three murders.

(much of the material here is from Sally Chidzoy and links provided). The Guardian also has some good background.

Offences and sentences

Joanna Dennehy :

  • Murder of Lucasz Slaboszewski
  • Murder of John Chapman 
  • Murder of Kevin Lee
  • Attempted murder of Robin Bereza
  • Attempted murder of John Rogers

Life sentence (whole life order)

Gary Stretch:

  • Preventing the lawful burial of Lucasz Slaboszewski –
  • Preventing the lawful burial of John Chapman –
  • Preventing the lawful burial of Kevin Lee –
  • Attempted murder of Robin Bereza –
  • Attempted murder of John Rogers –

Life with 19-year minimum term

According to Fiona Hamilton of The Times, Stretch said “thank you very much”, shrugged is shoulders and walked to cells with hands in his pockets after being sentenced.

Leslie Layton :

14 years

Robert Moore :

  • Assisting an offender –

3 years

Judge’s remarks

About Dennehy:

“You have written to me saying you feel no remorse for the murders”

“You are a cruel, calculating, selfish and manipulative serial killer”.

She killed to “gratify your own sadistic lust for blood”

‘Each of the three murders involved pre-planning and one was sexual/sadistic’ [paraphrased]

The Judge called Dennehy “a pathological liar”

The sentencing remarks are available here.

Comment

We’ll post a comment about the lengths of the sentences once we have been able to digest the sentencing remarks. In terms of the whole life order for Dennehy, it was always on the cards and would have been a surprise if the sentence was a lengthy minimum term (which practically could not have been much more than 40 years.)

We commented on 13th February, slightly tongue in cheek, that the whole life tariff given to Anwar Rosser could be the last whole life tariff given by the British courts. After the Court of Appeal’s judgment re the legality of whole life tariffs, we can expect to see some more (at least until they are challenged in Europe again!).

Whole Life Tariffs – the saga continues

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Introduction

The Judicial Office twitter account is to be applauded for the way that they keep the public (including us) uptodate as best they can.

As a result of that, we found out on 9th January 2014 what the latest steps in the ‘whole life tariff saga’ will be:

What’s the issue here?

This relates to the question of whether it is lawful for a Court to impose a ‘whole life tariff’ – an order against a defendant who is convicted of murder that they are never released.

The power to do this comes from Schedule 21 Criminal Justice Act 2003 that sets out how a Crown Court Judge should approach sentencing somebody for murder.

Whilst it is clear that there is power under the domestic law (ie, the law as set down by Parliament as it relates to England and Wales), the issue that the Court of Appeal will have to address later this month is whether Sch 21 is compatible with Art 3 European Convention.

The ECHR has ruled that a whole life tariff with no possibility of a review is contrary to Art 3.

So, faced with that, what is a Court to do? Some Judges have passed whole life tariffs since that is still permitted under English law. Others have concluded that the ECHR ruling means that they should not make a whole life tariff.

The Court of Appeal will have to decide (1) whether whole life tariffs are incompatible with Art 3 and, if so, (2) what can be done about it (make a declaration of incompatibility, read down the statute, or some other resolution). It may be that the issue is ducked on the basis that none of the people who are appealing need to have a whole life tariff, but this is unlikely.

Whatever happens on the 24th January, that won’t be the end of the matter. The case may go to the Supreme Court (unusual for a sentencing appeal) but will certainly go to the ECHR. This one will run and run.

Why is the Court of Appeal having five judges to hear this?

This is an indication that the Court think that this is a ‘big’ judgment. The panel of Judges is very high-powered, which just reinforces this (there is an issue as to ‘precedent’ – given that the previous case had five Judges, it would take a 5 person court to overrule that, but I don’t think that that is the real issue).

It also means (in practice) that the Court of Appeal are gearing up for a fight with the ECHR. It’s not called a fight of course, in polite terms it’s a ‘dialogue’. The idea is that the Court of Appeal ‘feeds into’ the ECHR (being a trans-national Court) and the composition of the Court makes it clear that the judgment is carefully thought out to ‘assist’ the ECHR with ‘understanding’ UK law.

In fact, the Court of Appeal did this in November 2012 with the same issue of whole life tariffs (interestingly, two of the Judges who decided that case will be deciding this one). They concluded that whole life tariffs were lawful. The ECHR noted this in their judgment in Vinter, but came to the view that this was wrong.

What then is the point of another five person court? I suppose that it is possible that the ECHR will change their mind. The judgment in Vinter was pretty clear and comprehensive however. Is there more that can be said, or anything that the ECHR did not understand about the way the English and Welsh legal system works? Again, it is hard to think of anything.

It is always possible that the ECHR will change their mind due to the merits of further legal argument, but I think that that is unlikely. It may be (like with hearsay) that the ECHR sees the political danger and tempers their ruling somewhat.

Links

This issue has arisen on plenty of occasions before. We’ve set out here the various pieces that we have done either on the principle or on the individual people that will be in the Court of Appeal:

General Material

Ian McGloughlin

Mark Bridger

Note – Mr Bridger announced that he was abandoning his application for permission to appeal

Lee Newall

Prediction

This is an intensely political issue. The political make up of the Judges in the Court of Appeal is mixed, but I would be very surprised (amazed in fact) if the Court of Appeal did anything other than uphold whole life tariffs.

It’s always dangerous to predict, but it would be wrong of me not to have a bash. My guess is that at least one of the people will leave the Court without a whole life tariff (Mr McGloughlin is the easiest legally as it’s an AG Ref, but Mr Newell is perhaps safest politically).

After that, I think that whilst the Supreme Court would not want to deal with this, they will take it up and (not unanimously) dismiss it. It will go back to the ECHR eventually. Where the ECHR will hold that whole life tariffs are unlawful and the process will start all over again… All the while the Government will do nothing.

Comment

(Disclaimer – this is my own personal view) – My own view is that Vinter is correct and whole life tariffs are unlawful (the links above set out the reasons why).

But, whether that is right or wrong, the wider question is our relationship with the ECHR. To me, it is clear – we have signed up to this and we are bound by it, so rather than complaining, just get on and comply with the Court’s ruling.

There has been much in the press about this, but it is manufactured outrage. All that is required to ensure compliance is to have a provision that after someone serving a whole life tariff has served 25 years there should be a review (which would be best done by a Judge) where the Judge checks to see that a whole life tariff is appropriate.

We are not talking great issues of long-standing principle here. Whole life tariffs without review have only been an option since December 2004. It is not clear whether Parliament even thought about the (then existing) review position when they passed the behemoth that is the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

The impact of allowing a review would be so minimal as to have passed unnoticed had the Government not been determined to make Europe an issue. A sensible and mature government could have dealt with this with a minimum of cost and fuss. It is a pity that this one did not.

BBC seek to explain murder sentences…but get the law a bit wrong

This morning, 11 December 2013, the BBC News website published an article by Jon Kelly seeking to explain the reason why three men convicted of murder received mandatory life sentences with wildly different minimum terms.

The three cases

Lee James: 18 years

Rakesh Bhayani: 27 years

Anxiang Du: 40 years

We are of course wholly in favour of greater public legal education, particularly the explanation of criminal cases featuring in the news (indeed, we have been doing it for over a year). This piece provides a good, brief, explanation of each of the sentencing decisions, with a couple of comments from two esteemed practitioners and an esteemed academic.

As a part of the article, Jon Kelly sought to explain how the starting points for the calculation of minimum terms in murder cases are calculated (while we’re at it, here is our fact sheet).

Getting the law a bit wrong

The problem is, Jon Kelly gets the law slightly wrong. Here, he states that the starting points for life apply to offenders aged 21+

 BBC Sch 21

There are three problems.

The starting points – who do they apply to?

Firstly, the Sch 21 starting points apply only to murder convictions. Jon states they apply ‘to life’. There are four types of life sentence available to the courts in England and Wales. These starting points only apply to mandatory life sentences imposed for murder.

Secondly, the starting points differ depending on the age of the offender. The correct explanation is as follows:

Whole life: Only available for those 21+

30 years: Available for those 18+

25 years: Available for those 18+

15 years: Available for those 18+

12 years: The only starting point for offenders aged under 18

[See Criminal Justice Act 2003 Sch 21 paras 4, 5, 5A, 6 and 7] The explanation as to which starting point applies to which case (e.g. bringing  a knife or other weapon to the scene, 25 years) was correct.

And thirdly, that he fails to state that the offender’s age is at the time of the offence, not conviction or sentence.

In a post seeking to explain the law, getting the law wrong is not a great start (though we applaud the desire to improve public understanding).

For the future, if the BBC wanted to have such articles etc. checked pre-publication, we would be more than willing to do so. Just drop us an email. What a service!

Rakesh Bhayani gets life with minimum of 27 years for Caroline Waugh murder

Taken from BBC News
Taken from BBC News

Bhayani, 41, was convicted at the Old Bailey on 27 November 2013. He had previously pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and conspiracy to defraud. Nicholas Kutner, 48, was convicted of perverting the course of justice and had already pleaded guilty to conpiracy to defraud.

A Mr Khoury, 40, was acquitted of conspiracy to defraud.

Facts

Ms Waugh was an escort and met Bhayani through that work. The court heard that she considered Bhayani a friend and had visited him in prison. The prosecution stated that there had been an intimate relationship between the two at one point in the past.

Ms Waugh was stabbed in the neck in her central London flat. Thereafter, her body was hidden.

Ms Waugh had lent Bhayani about £40,000. An estate agent who gave evidence at the trial stated that in addition to that sum, Bhayani also owed him £17,000.

It appeared that after murdering Ms Waugh, Bhayani attempted to create the impression that she was still alive by sending text messages from her phone. These included messages to the estate agent, arranging to meet in order to hand over money owed. At the last minute, a message from Ms Waugh’s phone would be sent to the estate agent explaining that she could not attend and she had sent her friend (Bhayani) instead.

Bhayani told the estate agent that Ms Waugh had moved out of London in order to care for her sick mother. Thereafter, there was suspicious activity around Ms Waugh’s bank accounts and the police began to investigate. Ms Wuagh’s flat was fraudulently leased and cleared of all her belongings before attempts were made to sell it. Applications for bridging loans and remortgage were made in the sums of £250,000 and £400,000. It is presumed that these were not successful, judging by the descriptions in the news reports.

The news reports state that Bhayani was accused of taking £1m of her assets.

Bhayani had rented a lock up garage in south west London. When the garage was eventually searched, a VW Golf was found inside, inside which was Ms Waugh’s decomposed body.

The BBC reported: Det Ch Insp Justin Davies said after the case: “Bhayani is a confidence trickster who murdered her with the sole intention of stripping her assets and the belongings she had worked hard for.

Sentencing

Bhayani was sentenced to life imprisonment (the only sentence available) with a minimum term of 27 years. This means that he will not be eligible to apply to the parole board for release until the minimum term has expired.

The starting points are explained here. In this case, it is likely that the starting point was 30 years as this was a murder done for gain.

The sentencing remarks are available here. We may update the post once we have had the opportunity to digest them and there is something worth commenting on.

Rakesh Bhayani found guilty of the murder of Caroline Waugh

Taken from BBC News

Taken from BBC News

Bhayani, 41, was convicted at the Old Bailey on 27 November 2013. He had previously pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and conspiracy to defraud. Nicholas Kutner, 48, was convicted of perverting the course of justice and had already pleaded guilty to conpiracy to defraud.

A Mr Khoury, 40, was acquitted of conspiracy to defraud.

Facts

Ms Waugh was an escort and met Bhayani through that work. The court heard that she considered Bhayani a friend and had visited him in prison. The prosecution stated that there had been an intimate relationship between the two at one point in the past.

Ms Waugh was stabbed in the neck in her central London flat. Thereafter, her body was hidden.

Ms Waugh had lent Bhayani about £40,000. An estate agent who gave evidence at the trial stated that in addition to that sum, Bhayani also owed him £17,000.

It appeared that after murdering Ms Waugh, Bhayani attempted to create the impression that she was still alive by sending text messages from her phone. These included messages to the estate agent, arranging to meet in order to hand over money owed. At the last minute, a message from Ms Waugh’s phone would be sent to the estate agent explaining that she could not attend and she had sent her friend (Bhayani) instead.

Bhayani told the estate agent that Ms Waugh had moved out of London in order to care for her sick mother. Thereafter, there was suspicious activity around Ms Waugh’s bank accounts and the police began to investigate. Ms Wuagh’s flat was fraudulently leased and cleared of all her belongings before attempts were made to sell it. Applications for bridging loans and remortgage were made in the sums of £250,000 and £400,000. It is presumed that these were not successful, judging by the descriptions in the news reports.

The news reports state that Bhayani was accused of taking £1m of her assets.

Bhayani had rented a lock up garage in south west London. When the garage was eventually searched, a VW Golf was found inside, inside which was Ms Waugh’s decomposed body.

The BBC reported: Det Ch Insp Justin Davies said after the case: “Bhayani is a confidence trickster who murdered her with the sole intention of stripping her assets and the belongings she had worked hard for.

Sentencing

Sentencing was adjourned so that Ms Waugh’s family could attend.This is an interesting move as it perhaps demonstrates a new approach in how the families of victims may be treated in cases of homicide.Is this yet a further move to put the victim (and their family) at the centre of criminal justice?

The sentence for murder is mandatory life imprisonment. The Judge must set a minimum tariff which must be served before Bhayani can be considered for release by the parole board.

Setting the tariff is a complicated exercise. Reference will be made to the starting points listed in CJA 2003 Sch 21. More information on those starting points can be viewed here.

The starting point will be 30 years – that is because the murder was ‘done for gain’. From there, the Judge will have to assess the aggravating and mitigating factors.

The planning and  the concealment of the body are statutory aggravating factors. The Judge may also wish to take account of the fact that there was an element of breach of trust, in that Ms Waugh regarded Bhayani as a friend. In addition, the use of a knife (which in itself would attract a starting point of 25 years if taken to the scene) will also aggravate the offence.

Bhayani’s previous convictions, of which we know little, are unlikely to have a great impact upon the sentence.

Pavlo Lapshyn sentenced for murder and terrorism offences

lapshyn

Image from Birmingham Mail

On 25 October 2013, Lapshyn was sentenced at the Old Bailey for various offences.

He pleaded guilty to the murder of Mohammed Saleem, aged 82 and

Mohammed Saleem was on his way home from evening prayers in Birmingham in April when Lapshyn followed him and stabbed him three times. In the following months, he was responsible for planting bombs at three mosques in Walsall, Wolverhampton and Tipton, in the Midlands.

He later admitted to the police that he held racist views, wished to increase racial conflict, and that his motivation was racism.

Terrorism

Lapshyn was setting off bombs near mosques in the West Midlands.

BBC News reported:

‘The first, hidden inside a child’s lunchbox, exploded outside Walsall’s Aisha Mosque on 21 June. Worshippers were inside at prayers and nobody was hurt but it still led to the evacuation of 150 people from nearby homes.’

No one was hurt in the Wolverhampton bombing either, although the device did detonate.

The bomb at the Tipton mosque was packed with 600grams of nails and was the most powerful of the three.

We understand that Lapshyn entered pleas as follows:

Walsall bomb – Guilty to preparing acts of terrorism, not guilty to causing an explosion likely to endanger life

Wolverhampton bomb – Guilty to causing explosions

Tipton bomb – Guilty to causing explosions

Murder – Guilty

Offences and maximum sentences

Terrorism Act 2006 s 5 – preparation of terrorist acts (max life imprisonment)

Explosive Substances Act 1883 s 2 – Causing explosion likely to endanger life or property (max life imprisonment)

Sentence

The mandatory sentence for murder is life. Here is an explanation of how judges approach sentencing in murder cases. The use of a knife takes the starting point to 25 years but the racial motiviation raises that to 30 years. There are obvious other aggravating features and so purely on the murder count, he is looking at a lengthy minimum term.

Of course in this case there are the terrorism offences to consider.

Lapshyn is, so many of the press have stated, in line for a whole life tariff. The sentencing judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, is the judge who sentenced Ian McLoughlin earlier in the week and held that he could not pass a whole life tariff as the European Court had ruled it to be unlawful.

We covered that issue here. We have some misgivings about that decision, however, in this case, it is likely that the judge will remain of that view. To decide that a whole life tariff is available notwithstanding the decision of the European Court in Vitner would require the judge to re-list the McLoughlin case under what is know as the slip rule, whereby judges can amend mistakes made when sentencing, so long as they are spotted within 56 days of the decision.

That would appear unlikely.

Lapshyn therefore is looking at a mandatory life sentence with a very long minimum term.