Practice and Procedure

R v A : R v B : R v C (2003)

PUBLISHED February 14, 2003

Where school pupils indulged in campaigns of bullying and intimidation they could expect severe punishment from the courts.Appeal against sentence by two defendants ('A' and 'C') with leave of the single judge. Referral by the Registrar of the third defendant's, ('B'), sentence. On 29 November 2002 at Wolverhampton Crown Court, before HHJ Wood, A, pleaded guilty to theft and robbery. B and C pleaded guilty to theft, robbery and common assault. On 16 December 2002 A and B were each sentenced to six months detention and training order and C was sentenced to eight months detention and training order. The offences arose out of bullying of fellow school pupils by A, B and C. The victims were threatened and forced to hand over money. One victim was held face down by A and B whilst C stole his belongings. All the victims were punched and kicked and one was told he would be stabbed. One victim told how C was the ring leader and told A and B what to do. When sentencing the judge had regard to their previous good character and their ages. The judge commented that they came from good homes and he was sure that members of their families were ashamed but wanted to help them. However, if A, B and C had been the victims he was equally sure that the families would have wanted the perpetrators locked up. The victims had had to worry day and night about going to school and it was necessary for boys who gang up and bully others to recognise it was a serious crime. C was sentenced as ring leader. A, B and C appealed against sentence on the grounds that it was manifestly excessive given: (i) the pleas of guilty; (ii) previous good character; (iii) the nature of the offences did not justify the severity of the sentences; and (iv) C was sentenced as ring leader and whilst there was material on the papers to justify that the judge had refused to hold a Newton hearing to resolve whether C was or was not ring leader.HELD: (1) The court approached the case with some anxiety having regard to the young age of A, B and C, and their previous good character. However, the approach taken by the judge was correct with the exception of C. The judge fell into error by treating C as ring leader without holding a hearing to determine, on the evidence, whether he was. As a result C's sentence should be reduced to six months detention and training order. (2) Pupils who indulge in campaigns of intimidation and violence could expect severe punishment. It was the only way the court could assist teachers in stamping out bullying. The judge had used the correct approach.Appeal allowed in part.