Tag Archives: whole life

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

ARCHITECTURE STOCK

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.