Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED July 29, 2003

In the particular circumstances of this case the court would not interfere with a sentence of three and a half years' imprisonment for manslaughter on the grounds of provocation where the defendant killed his wife and son.Application by the Attorney-General to refer, under s.36 Criminal Justice Act 1988, a total sentence of three and a half years' imprisonment following conviction for manslaughter on the ground of provocation imposed by Rafferty J at Wood Green Crown Court. The defendant ('F') was married for 12 years and had four children. F's wife ('V') had for some time been contacting other men over the internet. Over a considerable period of time V made her feelings clear to F in a way that could only be described as cruel. She taunted F with his impotence, inability to hold down a job, his illiteracy and with the other men she had contact with. On 22 December 2001 they argued over the use of the car. F took the car, went to a local store and bought a kitchen knife with a six inch blade. He returned home where they continued to argue, F followed V upstairs into the bedroom. Their eldest daughter opened the door and saw F, who was sitting astride V, stab her twice. Their eldest son rushed in and punched F to try and stop what was happening, F stabbed him three times. Both the son and V died shortly later. F gave himself up to police, he had three self inflicted stab wounds, one penetrated the liver. It was quite obvious he had made a serious attempt to kill himself. In interview he described the prolonged taunting. He told police he had been working nights in order to get money for Christmas and V had told him she wasn't spending Christmas with him and he couldn't see the children. F offered to plead guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of provocation but initially that was not accepted. At trial F's eldest daughter gave evidence that F had been a dedicated husband and father and had been treated badly and cruelly by V. At that stage the Crown decided to accept the pleas earlier offered, the judge approved the decision and F was sentenced for manslaughter. The Attorney-General referred the sentences as unduly lenient given that there were two deaths and F had gone to the shops to buy a knife.HELD: (1) When a court came to sentence for manslaughter on the grounds of provocation it must do so, whether the defendant was convicted or pleaded guilty, on the basis of certain assumptions which were not always recognised by the public. Those assumptions were set out in Attorney-General's References (Nos.74, 95, and 118 of 2002) sub nom R v Darren Suratan & Ors (2002) EWCA Civ 2982. (2) The present case caused the court a great deal of anxiety in deciding whether or not to interfere with the sentences. At first sight it might appear the sentences were not only lenient but unduly lenient given that there were two deaths. The judge took into account F's history of depression, his low intelligence, the fact he was not a risk to the public and the fact he had been in custody for over a year. (3) Even where such features existed the appropriate sentence was in the range of 5 to 7 years. However, there must always be exceptions and there had been cases, usually where a wife killed her husband, where a non-custodial sentence was appropriate. The judge accepted that F had only bought the knife with the intention of hurting himself. He was of good character and had pleaded guilty. The court could not categorise the sentence as unduly lenient and would not interfere.Leave to refer granted. Application refused.